A federal jury ruled on Thursday in Kevin Spacey’s favour, finding him not liable in a $40 million civil lawsuit brought against him by fellow actor Anthony Rapp for battery. The deliberations took just over an hour.
The decision marks the first legal verdict on the slew of sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey that began publicly circulating in late 2017. (More than 30 men have accused Spacey of sexual misconduct. Rapp’s claim was the first to go to trial, but Spacey has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges in the UK.) As the #MeToo movement gained steam that year, Rapp claimed in an interview with an online publication that Spacey made a sexual advance on him in 1986, when Rapp was 14 years old and Spacey was 26. Rapp filed the civil suit over the claim in 2020.
During his testimony, Rapp said that in 1986, he was attending a party at Spacey’s apartment—they were both Broadway actors at the time—and went into a bedroom to watch television, according to The New York Times. Rapp reportedly testified that Spacey walked into the room, picked him up “like a groom picks up a bride,” and laid down on top of him and pressed his groin into Rapp’s hip.
“I knew something was really wrong now,” Rapp reportedly testified. The actor said he managed to wriggle away and leave, but that the experience was “the most traumatic single event” of his life, according to Deadline. His lawyers have argued that the account constitutes battery. (During the trial, Spacey’s lawyers successfully sought to have an emotional distress claim thrown out, after Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that it overlapped with the battery claim. Kaplan also dismissed an assault claim prior to the trial.)
As with so many high-profile cases in the #MeToo era, the trial revolved to some degree around the workings of Hollywood and fame. Rapp’s testimony partly amounted to a capsule of Spacey’s achievements: “It was as if someone had poked me with a cattle prod,” he said, Vulture reported, when he went to see Working Girl in 1988 without knowing that Spacey was in it. The younger actor reportedly testified about the distress he would feel whenever he saw a movie Spacey was in, which he considered his “duty” given his line of work. In her opening statement, according to the site, Spacey’s attorney Jennifer Keller took that dynamic as an opportunity to cast Rapp as envious and embittered: “While Anthony Rapp has made a living as an actor, a working actor, which is not an easy thing to do, he never became the international star that Kevin Spacey is, who could play almost any role.”
When it came time for Spacey to testify, he delved into personal history. After Rapp went public with his accusations in 2017, Spacey infamously responded by coming out as gay in an apology statement. Five years later, he reportedly testified that he regretted not only that decision, but the remorse he had shown. “They told me I couldn’t push back,” he said of his publicists.
The verdict comes after a trial that lasted two weeks. Spacey’s sexual assault trial in the UK is expected to begin in the summer.
This article first appeared on vanityfair.com
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