NEW YORK — Anthony Rapp has lost his civil lawsuit against Kevin Spacey, whom he accused of sexually assaulting him when Rapp was 14.
The jury deliberated for about one hour and 20 minutes on Thursday before finding that Rapp's attorneys did not prove that Spacey had touched his "sexual or intimate part or parts." During closing arguments earlier in the day, Spacey’s attorney Jennifer Keller accused Rapp of “trying to hitch his wagon to the #MeToo movement.”
Throughout the trial, the defense accused Rapp of lying due to jealousy of Spacey’s career and a desire to raise his public profile. She urged the jury to consider Rapp’s statements apart from whatever their personal views on the movement might be.
“This isn’t a team sport, where you’re either on the #MeToo side or the other side,” she said.
Rapp’s attorneys, meanwhile, said he had consistently told the truth about what happened from the time he was 14 until he came forward publicly in a BuzzFeed News story in 2017. At the time, he could not take legal action because of the statute of limitations, which changed when New York’s Child Victims Act took effect in 2019.
“Sometimes the simple truth, the simple explanation, is the best explanation,” Rapp’s attorney Richard Steigman said. “This happened, and after all this time, he’s come here to share that truth with you.”
Rapp, best known for his roles in Star Trek: Discovery and the original Broadway cast of Rent, has said he first met Spacey in 1986 while they were both performing on Broadway. One night, according to Rapp, Spacey, then 26, invited him to a party at his apartment. At the end of the night, Spacey allegedly approached Rapp while he was sitting on a bed, picked him up, and climbed on top of him.
“He picked me up like a groom picks up a bride,” Rapp, now 50, said in his testimony, adding that he felt Spacey press “his pelvis into my hip” before he “managed to squirm away” and leave the apartment.
"We’re very to the grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations,” Keller told BuzzFeed News as she was leaving court on Thursday.
In a statement Thursday evening, Rapp thanked the jury for hearing his case.
"Bringing this lawsuit was always about shining a light, as part of the larger movement to stand up against all forms of sexual violence," he said on Twitter. "I pledge to keep on advocating for efforts to ensure that we can live and work in a world that is free from sexual violence of any kind. I sincerely hope that survivors continue to tell their stories and fight for accountability."
In the days after Rapp first came forward publicly, more than a dozen other people also accused Spacey of sexual misconduct. Among them were Harry Dreyfuss, son of the Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, and a production assistant on Netflix’s House of Cards, which Spacey starred in until he was fired over the numerous allegations against him.
Throughout the trial, Spacey, now 63, has vehemently denied Rapp’s allegations, saying he is “100% confident” the alleged events “never occurred.” But in a statement just after the BuzzFeed News story was published in 2017, Spacey did not claim to be so certain.
“I’m beyond horrified to hear this story,” Spacey said at the time. “I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.”
During his testimony, Spacey said he regrets the statement, which he said two publicists helped him write. Despite his claims that he did not believe Rapp’s allegations were true, Spacey said his publicists told him he “had to take it seriously” and “couldn’t push back” so as not to be called a “victim blamer.”
“I was being encouraged to apologize,” Spacey said. “And I’ve learned a lesson, which is never apologize for something you didn't do.”
Spacey also came out as gay in the 2017 statement, saying Rapp’s allegations had encouraged him “to address other things about my life.” Many people criticized Spacey for the timing of this announcement, saying he was using it as a deflection tactic.
Spacey testified that he decided to come out at that moment because he “wanted to try to do something positive,” but regretted it “within minutes.” He now understands the criticism, he said, breaking down in tears.
“I have to own that,” Spacey said. “It was really wrong, and really bad, and I’m deeply sorry.”
In the beginning of his testimony, Spacey said his childhood was characterized by a “difficult family dynamic,” and the family moved frequently due to his father’s chronic unemployment. At some point, he said, his father “fell in” with some people who “damaged his mind.”
“My father was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi,” Spacey said, adding that this was his first time speaking publicly about it. Due to his interest in theater, Spacey said his father suspected he might be gay and would berate him for it.
Though Rapp’s allegations only became public in 2017, he said he told many friends over the years, and several were deposed ahead of the trial. Christopher Hart, Rapp’s close friend from middle and high school, testified that Rapp told him about what allegedly happened with Spacey at a sleepover just weeks after it occurred.
Doctor Who actor John Barrowman — who was with Rapp the first time he and Spacey met, but not on the night of the alleged assault — was also deposed ahead of the trial, and video of his deposition was played in court. Barrowman recalled visiting Rapp, whom he knew from his hometown and had performed in a play with, in New York when he was 19 and Rapp was 14. The two met Spacey backstage after a Broadway show, after which the older actor took them to dinner and a nightclub.
Spacey invited them both back to his apartment afterward, suggesting that they meet his dog and check out his view of the city. At one point, Barrowman said, Rapp went to the bathroom, and Spacey “playfully” pushed Barrowman onto the bed. Barrowman said he “didn’t feel threatened,” but felt it was an inappropriate situation for the 14-year-old Rapp to be around, so he and Rapp then left. Spacey did not deny Barrowman’s account, saying it had been a “flirtatious” moment.
Spacey allegedly assaulted Rapp weeks later. Barrowman and Rapp didn’t see each other again until 1998; during that meeting, Barrowman said, Rapp told him about the alleged incident.
The first time Rapp saw Spacey onscreen after the alleged assault was 1988, when he went to see the movie Working Girl, he testified. Rapp said he had not known Spacey was in it, and when the older actor first appeared, he recalled his body suddenly flooding with adrenaline and his palms growing sweaty. “It was as if someone poked me with a cattle prodder,” he said.
Rapp said he saw a few more of Spacey’s movies after that, steeling himself beforehand. But seeing American Beauty — the 1999 movie in which Spacey’s character has a sexual relationship with a teenage girl — was so disturbing he hasn’t seen Spacey in a movie since.
“It felt unpleasantly familiar,” Rapp said. “It was upsetting.”
In the years since, Rapp said he has frequently worried about when he and Spacey would see each other in person again. It happened a few times — they ran into each other in the restroom at the 1989 Tony Awards — but they never spoke.
Throughout the trial, Rapp and Spacey crossed paths on a daily basis and sat mere feet away from each other in the courtroom. Facing him was “extremely difficult,” Rapp testified.
Spacey’s defense attorneys attempted to portray Rapp as a liar, accusing him of making a “false allegation” due to jealousy of Spacey’s career. They also suggested Rapp had used his skills as an actor to convince people — including a psychologist who testified — that his trauma symptoms were real.
This was not Spacey’s first time in a courtroom for sexual assault charges, and it won’t be the last. In May, British prosecutors charged Spacey with sexually assaulting three men. He faces four counts of sexual assault, each of which could be punished by six months in prison or an unlimited fine, according to Reuters. He is also charged with “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent,” which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Spacey has pleaded not guilty to the UK charges, the trial for which is scheduled to begin in June 2023.
In August, a judge ruled that Spacey must pay $31 million in damages to House of Cards production company MRC for alleged sexual misconduct on set and monetary losses resulting from his removal from the show.
Previously, Spacey was also accused of groping an 18-year-old in a Nantucket restaurant in 2016, but the case was dropped in 2019 after the individual refused to answer questions in court about his cellphone, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to potentially self-incriminate, according to the Boston Herald. Another case against Spacey, in which an anonymous massage therapist accused the actor of sexually assaulting him during a 2016 session, was dropped after the alleged victim died prior to the trial.
Evidence of other legal claims against Spacey was not part of the New York case, and the defense objected when Rapp began to speak about how he came forward out of a wish to prevent potential future assaults.
In his final plea to jurors on Thursday, Steigman, Rapp’s attorney, obliquely referenced the multiple accusations that Spacey has faced.
“I only hope you don’t let him get away with it this time.”