A federal jury in Manhattan found Kevin Spacey not answerable for battery on Thursday after the actor Anthony Rapp filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Spacey of climbing on top of him and making a sexual advance in 1986, when Mr. Rapp was 14.
Mr. Rapp’s claim was probably the most outstanding within the early days of the #MeToo movement, as accusers began to return forward with allegations against high-profile men within the entertainment, political and business worlds. Mr. Spacey, a star of the political drama “House of Cards” and a lauded actor who had hosted the Tony Awards months earlier, quickly experienced profession blowback.
The disclosure by Mr. Rapp, which BuzzFeed News published in October 2017, was followed by greater than a dozen other sexual misconduct accusations against Mr. Spacey. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges in Britain, and outdoors the courthouse on Thursday, certainly one of his lawyers, Jennifer L. Keller, said he could be proven innocent in all cases.
The civil trial to contemplate Mr. Rapp’s claim of battery hinged on his account of an evening in 1986, when, he said, he attended a celebration at Mr. Spacey’s Recent York apartment during a Broadway season through which each of them were acting in plays. Mr. Spacey, who was 26 on the time, denied that such an encounter ever occurred.
After lower than an hour and a half of deliberation, an 11-person jury within the U.S. District Court in Manhattan decided in favor of Mr. Spacey, whose lawyers had hammered Mr. Rapp with questions that challenged his memory of events said to have occurred greater than 36 years ago.
Following the decision, Mr. Spacey stood up with tears in his eyes and hugged his lawyers. He was silent during his exit from the courthouse, but Ms. Keller told reporters, “We’re just grateful that the jury saw the reality.”
Mr. Rapp was straight-faced in response to the choice. In an announcement later posted to his Twitter account, Mr. Rapp said he was “deeply grateful” for the chance to have his case heard before a jury.
“Bringing this lawsuit was at all times about shining a lightweight,” the statement said, “as a part of the larger movement to arise against all types of sexual violence.”
Mr. Rapp, an actor on “Star Trek: Discovery” and who’s best known for his originating role within the musical “Rent,” was capable of bring his claim under a Recent York State law, the Child Victims Act. The law included a short lived “look-back” window during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations might be revived.
The jury determined that there was not enough evidence to prove that Mr. Spacey had touched certainly one of Mr. Rapp’s “sexual or intimate” parts, meaning the claim couldn’t be revived under the law. Mr. Rapp testified that when Mr. Spacey picked him up, certainly one of his hands “grazed” his buttocks.
Mr. Rapp’s lawyers presented testimony from three men who said he had told them within the mid-Nineties or earlier about an encounter with Mr. Spacey. The defense focused on inconsistencies and picked at vagueness in his account, highlighting that Mr. Rapp, 50, presented no third-party corroboration of the gathering on the night that he said the encounter had occurred. Midway through the trial, the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, dismissed a claim against Mr. Spacey, 63, of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“There is no such thing as a evidence that this happened and lots of evidence that it didn’t,” Ms. Keller said in closing arguments.
Each actors took the stand to testify, presenting disparate accounts about what happened within the spring of 1986, when Mr. Rapp was a teenage actor within the play “Precious Sons” and Mr. Spacey was in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
Mr. Rapp testified that he had withdrawn to the bedroom to look at late-night TV during Mr. Spacey’s party because he didn’t know every other guests. Once the party wound down, Mr. Rapp testified, Mr. Spacey approached him, picked him up, laid him on the bed and climbed on top of him, pressing his groin into Mr. Rapp’s hip.
“I knew something was really improper now,” Mr. Rapp said, recalling feeling frozen in place.
He testified that he was capable of wriggle out from under Mr. Spacey, who appeared intoxicated, and escape to the nearby bathroom. Mr. Rapp recalled that before he exited the apartment, Mr. Spacey said, “Are you sure you would like to leave?”
The defense contended that Mr. Rapp had fabricated the claim to get attention for himself and his profession, which he denied.
“Does it seem like he’s having fun with the eye of this?” a lawyer for Mr. Rapp, Richard M. Steigman, said in closing arguments. “He’s doing this to carry Kevin Spacey accountable.”
Despite issuing an apology shortly after Mr. Rapp made public his allegation, Mr. Spacey testified that the encounter never happened, that he had never been alone with Mr. Rapp and that he had not had a celebration at his apartment in the time-frame Mr. Rapp described.
Mr. Spacey said he did recall that Mr. Rapp had attended with a friend a performance of “Long Day’s Journey,” and that afterward, Mr. Spacey had invited them to dinner, then to a nightclub after which back to his apartment.
Mr. Spacey said he had flirted with Mr. Rapp’s friend, John Barrowman, who was 19 on the time. Back at Mr. Spacey’s apartment, he said, he pushed Mr. Barrowman gently back onto the bed when Mr. Rapp left for the toilet. Feeling that Mr. Rapp was too young to see them in a romantic situation, Mr. Spacey said, the 2 men sat up when Mr. Rapp returned.
“I had little interest in Mr. Rapp joining us,” Mr. Spacey testified.
Mr. Rapp testified that on the night all of them went to the nightclub — which he described as his second time meeting Mr. Spacey — they didn’t return to the apartment. In a videotaped deposition, Mr. Barrowman, an actor known for his role within the TV show “Doctor Who,” recalled the series of events that night as Mr. Spacey had.
Mr. Rapp called the alleged encounter with Mr. Spacey essentially the most traumatic event of his life. Mr. Rapp testified about moments when he later saw Mr. Spacey onscreen — in movies like “American Beauty” and “Working Girl” — and felt startled, sometimes feeling as if “poked with a cattle prod.”
Mr. Spacey’s lawyers suggested throughout the trial that Mr. Rapp was motivated to fabricate the accusation because he was envious of Mr. Spacey’s profession or frustrated that Mr. Spacey was not public about his relationships with men.
Mr. Rapp denied those motivations, asserting that he had come forward to hunt belated justice for himself. But during a lengthy and tense cross-examination, he acknowledged that he may need been mistaken a few couple details, including that the alleged encounter had occurred in a separate bedroom in Mr. Spacey’s apartment.
Mr. Spacey’s lawyers also questioned Mr. Rapp on similarities between his account and moments of staging in “Precious Sons.” Within the play, the character of Mr. Rapp’s father, who was played by Ed Harris, had picked up the character of Mr. Rapp in the identical manner that he described Mr. Spacey picking him up — like a groom carrying a bride. Mr. Harris also climbed on Mr. Rapp twice in the course of the play.
Mr. Rapp dismissed the concept that there was any connection, saying the staging had been done “with care and consent.”
Mr. Rapp’s lawyers pointed to Mr. Spacey’s initial response to Mr. Rapp’s accusation, through which he didn’t categorically deny the encounter, as supporting evidence for his or her client. In an announcement Mr. Spacey posted after the BuzzFeed article, he said he had no memory of the encounter, adding, “But when I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
In his testimony, Mr. Spacey said he regretted making that apology, attributing the choice to advisers who feared that individuals would call Mr. Spacey a “victim blamer” if he denied the allegation outright.
“I’ve learned a lesson,” Mr. Spacey testified, “which is, never apologize for something you didn’t do.”
One additional accuser, Andy Holtzman, testified in the course of the trial that Mr. Spacey had groped him in an office in 1981, when Mr. Holtzman was 27 and Mr. Spacey was several years younger. Mr. Spacey denied doing so. No other accusations were discussed in front of the jury, and Judge Kaplan instructed the jury to disregard two instances when Mr. Rapp had alluded to other allegations against Mr. Spacey during his testimony.
In consequence of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, Mr. Spacey — who has won two Oscars and a Tony — lost major roles, with an arbitrator ordering him to pay $31 million to the “House of Cards” studio for breach of contract.
However the jury’s verdict on Thursday adds to the list of legal victories for Mr. Spacey. Prosecutors dropped a sexual assault charge in Massachusetts, and an anonymous accuser who had originally sued alongside Mr. Rapp decided to not proceed his claim when Judge Kaplan ruled that the plaintiff would wish to discover himself publicly.
“What’s next,” Ms. Keller said outside the courthouse on Thursday, “is that Kevin Spacey goes to be proven innocent of anything he’s been accused of.”