Kevin Spacey appeared in a New York court Thursday, five years after sexual misconduct charges ruined his Hollywood career, to face a civil case brought by actor Anthony Rapp, who claims the disgraced Oscar winner of abusing him as a teenager in 1986.
The 63-year-old Spacey, one among the first celebrities to be caught up in the worldwide #MeToo reckoning over sexual assault, grinned as he arrived at a federal court in Manhattan at approximately 9 a.m. (1300 GMT), shortly after Mr Rapp entered the premises.
In a case presided over by Judge Lewis Kaplan, jury selection was set to begin about a half-hour later.
Anthony Rapp, who turned 51 this month, filed a complaint against Spacey in September 2020 for advances and an alleged sexual assault at a party in Manhattan in 1986, when he was 14 and Spacey was in his late 20s.
The “House of Cards” actor, who rose to stardom in films including “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty” in the 1980s, has long rejected claims of sexual assault.
However, Spacey, whose full name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, has vanished from public view following his involvement in the early days of the #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo movement exploded in October 2017, when more than 80 women in the movie industry accused — and ultimately brought down — the previously untouchable producer Harvey Weinstein.
At the end of the month, Mr Rapp accused Spacey for the first time, in great detail, in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
The next day, on Twitter, Spacey presented his “sincerest apology” to Mr Rapp for any “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” saying he did not recall the incident.
After a 2020 criminal charge of sexual assault was dismissed by a judge, Mr Rapp filed a civil suit.
According to a court document, Mr Rapp claims that during the 1986 party, Spacey lifted him up, and that his hand “grazed” his buttocks while doing so. Mr Rapp claims Spacey then placed him back down on a bed and “briefly placed his own clothed body partially beside and partially across” the 14-year-old’s.
During his testimony 35 years after the incident, Mr Rapp agreed there had been “no kissing, no undressing, no reaching under clothes, and no sexualized statements or innuendo,” during an incident that had lasted no more than two minutes.
‘An impartial jury’
“Mr Spacey will appear Thursday and throughout the trial. We look forward to his vindication by an impartial jury,” his lawyer Jennifer Keller previously told AFP in an email.
If found guilty, Spacey faces significant damages.
Mr Kaplan had dropped Rapp’s initial charge of sexual assault, ruling it had been brought too late and was not covered by a New York state law on child protection, implemented in 2019.
Spacey has pleaded not guilty to allegations of sexual assault against three men in Britain between March 2005 and April 2013, and charges of indecent assault and sexual assault against the actor were dropped in Massachusetts in 2019.