In a victory for Kevin Spacey, a New York jury on Thursday found him not liable for battery on allegations he picked up actor Anthony Rapp and briefly laid on top of him in a bed after a party in 1986.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour, and concluded Rapp did not prove that Spacey “touched a sexual or intimate part” of Rapp.
Judge Lewis Kaplan formally dismissed the case. Attorneys seated on either side of Spacey immediately put their hands on his back when the verdict was read.
Best known for his role in “Star Trek: Discovery,” Rapp alleged that in 1986, Spacey, then 26, invited Rapp, then 14, to his Manhattan home where he picked Rapp up, laid him down on his bed, grabbed his buttocks and pressed his groin into Rapp’s body without his consent.
The judge dismissed Rapp’s claim of assault before the trial started and dismissed his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress after Rapp’s attorneys rested his case, leaving the jury to decide only the battery claim. Under New York law, battery is touching another person, without their consent, in a way that a reasonable person would find offensive.
In his closing argument, Rapp’s attorney Richard Steigman suggested Spacey twisted his testimony at trial to suit his defense, pointing to Spacey’s 2017 apology to Rapp when he first came forward.
“Don’t listen to what I said in real time. I’m defending a lawsuit now. Listen to me now. I’ve got it straightened out,” Steigman said, mocking Spacey’s attempt to convince the jury he was coerced by publicists to give the statement he testified he now regrets.
Steigman called Spacey’s testimony rehearsed in comparison to the raw testimony given by his client.
“When you’re rehearsed, and a world class actor and you’re following the script and following the testimony of someone else, you can take that stand and be perfectly polished,” Steigman said. “When you’re merely coming to court coming forward and telling the truth of your experience, especially one like this that’s a little bit complicated.”
Steigman also batted down the defense argument that Rapp wanted to out Spacey as gay.
“The point of the story is not that Kevin Spacey is gay. It’s that he sexually abused him when he was 14. That’s what he’s sharing with people, he’s sharing his experience – nothing more, nothing less. Where’s the proof that he said to any media outlet, you know, Kevin Spacey is gay, you really should run with this?”
Spacey’s attorney Jennifer Keller began her closing argument by addressing the shadow of the Me Too movement on the case, stating that Rapp “hitched his wagon” to the movement when he came forward.
“This isn’t a team sport where you’re either on the Me Too side, or you’re on the other side,” Keller told the jury. “This is a very different place. Our system requires evidence, proof, objective support for accusations provided to an impartial jury. However polarized as society may be today, it really should not have a place here.”
Keller suggested that Rapp cribbed his allegations against Spacey from a nearly identical scene from the Broadway show “Precious Sons,” which Rapp was performing in with Ed Harris in 1986 at the time of the alleged incident.
“We’re here because Mr. Rapp has falsely alleged abuse that never occurred at a party that was never held in a room that did not exist,” she said.
Spacey’s attorney concluded her remakrs by asking the jury not to compromise their verdict by finding Spacey liable of battery but only awarding Rapp a single dollar in damages.
“You’re here to be judges of the facts. Did it happen? It didn’t happen. One penny is too much for something that did not happen. And for Mr. Spacey this is not about the money. For Mr. Spacey this is about the truth that day and he was falsely accused,” Keller said.
Jurors began deliberations on Thursday afternoon.