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Kevin Spacey found not liable in Anthony Rapp sexual assault lawsuit

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A New York jury on Thursday found Kevin Spacey not liable in a sexual assault and battery case brought forward by actor Anthony Rapp, who sought $40 million in damages, according to the Associated Press. The jury deliberated for a little over an hour.

Spacey’s lawyer Jennifer Keller said in a statement shared with The Washington Post that her client “is grateful to live in a country where the citizens have a right to trial by impartial jurors who make their decision based on evidence and not rumor or social media.” She added that “justice was done today.”

Richard Steigman, a lawyer for Rapp, wrote in an email, “Anthony told his truth in court. While we respect the jury’s verdict, nothing changes that.”

The lawsuit, filed in September 2020, alleged that Spacey placed Rapp on a bed and climbed on top of him in a sexual manner at a party held at Spacey’s Manhattan residence in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. The actors met while on Broadway. Rapp shared the story in a BuzzFeed News interview from October 2017, the same month the New York Times and New Yorker published articles detailing years of assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Rapp told BuzzFeed News that the entertainment industry conversations sparked by the Weinstein exposed led him to “try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue [by] many people, including myself, being silent.” After the interview ran, Spacey wrote in a tweeted statement that he could not remember the encounter with Rapp.

“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 all the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey wrote. He came out as gay in the same statement.

The lawsuit accused Spacey of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, noting that Rapp “sustained psychological injuries” that, in some cases, were “of a permanent and lasting nature.” The document made the same three claims on behalf of another plaintiff referred to only as “CD,” who was dismissed from the case last year after US District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled it would not be fair for Spacey to have to defend himself against accusations made anonymously. Reuters reported that Kaplan dismissed Rapp’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress during trial proceedings because it repeated aspects of the assault and battery claims.

Rapp, best known for appearing in the Broadway musical “Rent” and its film adaptation, testified that he came forward with his accusations “because I knew I was not the only one who Kevin Spacey made inappropriate sexual advances to,” according to the Hollywood Report. The trade magazine also stated that a forensic psychologist who evaluated Rapp said in court that he dealt with “a tremendous amount of shame, guilt and confusion” after the alleged assault. Variety reported that Rapp described the encounter as “the most traumatic single event of my life.”

According to Deadline, Spacey’s lawyers argued that the test results leading to Rapp’s diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder were inconsistent to the extent they were “unusable.” Spacey said in court that the allegations against him were “not true” and that he regretted sharing the statement he posted to Twitter, the Associated Press reported. He added that his team advised him to post it because they saw it as the wisest way to manage “a crisis that was going to get worse.”

In his testimony, the Oscar winner described growing up “in a very complicated family dynamic,” stating that his father was a “White supremacist and neo-Nazi” who lectured Spacey and his siblings. When Spacey expressed interest in theater, he said, his father “used to yell at me at the idea that I might be gay.”

More than a dozen others have accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including crew members who worked on “House of Cards,” the Netflix drama series that earned Spacey 10 Emmy nominations as an actor and executive producer. He was fired from the show in 2017 over the sexual harassment allegations and earlier this year ordered to cover resulting losses by paying producers $30 million.

A sexual assault charge against Spacey in Massachusetts was dropped in 2019 “due to the unavailability of the complaining witness,” and a lawsuit in California was dismissed that same year after the accuser died. Spacey is awaiting trial in the United Kingdom on five counts of sexual assault related to incidents alleged to have taken place in England between 2005 and 2013, including one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.

A lawyer representing Spacey, who served as artistic director of the Old Vic theater in London at the times of the alleged encounters against three separate men, said during a court appearance in June that the embattled actor “strenuously denies any and all criminality in this case .”