Actor Kevin Spacey took the stand earlier this week in his own defense during his trial on a charge of battery stemming from a decades-old incident involving actor Anthony Rapp.
Rapp, now 50, claimed as part of a $40 million lawsuit against Spacey, claims the American Beauty and House of Cards actor made an unwanted sexual advance while the two were at Spacey’s apartment in 1986.
Rapp, who was 14 at the time of the incident, says the then-26-year-old Spacey allegedly picked him up, laid him down on his bed, grabbed his buttocks and pressed his groin into Rapp’s body without Rapp’s consent, mounting him with “dead weight” before Rapp squirmed out from underneath him, reports CNN.
On Monday, Judge Lewis Kaplan, of the Southern District of New York, granted a defense request to dismiss a charge of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Spacey. Kaplan previously dismissed a claim of assault in the case back in June, but denied defense motions to dismiss a sexual battery claim against Spacey.
After Rapp’s attorneys finished presenting their case against Spacey, the actor took the stand in his own defense and said Rapp’s allegations are not true. He also denied allegations by Andrew Holtzman, who served as a witness for Rapp’s legal team, and has alleged that Spacey grabbed his crotch and pressed his body against him without his consent during a 2017 incident.
While on the stand, Spacey testified that he’s always been private about his life and sexual orientation, in part to due verbal abuse from his father as a child. He claimed his late father was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi — something he’d never disclosed publicly.
Spacey said his father’s prejudicial views fostered his “intolerance” to bigotry, but also kept him from acknowledging his own sexuality. He claims his father would routinely use derogatory language about being gay and mocked Spacey’s interest in theater. Due to that verbal abuse, Spacey intentionally kept quiet about his personal life, only coming out after Rapp’s allegations against him were published by Buzzfeed in late 2017.
While on the stand, Spacey became emotional when questioned about the statement he put out in response to Rapp’s allegations, saying his publicity team advised him that he couldn’t push back against the claims or he’d be labeled a victim blamer.
“I was being encouraged to apologize and I’ve learned a lesson which is never apologize for something you didn’t do,” Spacey said. “I regret my entire statement.”
He said that his statement, in which he first acknowledged his sexual orientation, was not well received.
“I was accused of trying to change the subject, or trying to deflect, or that I was conflating an allegation with being gay, which was never my intention,” Spacey said, crying. “I would have never done anything to hurt the gay community, and I was so upset that that was what happened. I understood it in retrospect.”
The jury heard the remaining evidence in the case on Wednesday and were slated to begin deliberating the case following closing arguments on Thursday. The jury will have to decide whether Spacey committed battery against Rapp and thereby affected the younger actor’s mental state, contributing to his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Spacey’s attorneys called forensic psychiatrist Alexander Bardey as their final witness. In his testimony, Bardey said he disagreed with a medical expert called by Rapp’s team, Lisa Rocchio, who claimed that Rapp suffers from PTSD. Bardey also testified that he believes the Star Trek: Discovery and Rent actor displays traits related to narcissistic personality disorder, reports the entertainment news website Deadline.
Richard Steigman, an attorney for Rapp, grilled Bardey over claims he made regarding his assessment of Rapp as suffering from narcissism, seeking to poke holes in Bardey’s testimony. Steigman pointed to consistent answers Rapp gave to various tests designed to identify whether people are faking or exaggerating mental illness, to dispel the argument, put forth by Spacey’s legal team, that Rapp is pretending to be traumatized.
Even so, Spacey’s lawyers have also argued that if Rapp isn’t faking symptoms of PTSD, he’s blaming Spacey for other traumatic events, including a separate sexual encounter at age 14 that Rapp wrote about unfavorably in his memoir.
Rapp’s lawyers also asked Bardey, as they wrapped up cross-examination whether any narcissists have won Academy Awards, a veiled reference to Spacey. Bardey said there likely had been some who won the prestigious acting award.
That said, after dismissing the jurors, Kaplan and lawyers from both sides argued over the instructions that would be given to the jury, with Kaplan making several rulings that appeared to favor Spacey’s defense team.
For instance, the judge said “there’s bundles of evidence” that Rapp contributed to his own mental distress by going public with his claim of sexual misconduct, “exposing himself to the lawsuit and watching Kevin Spacey movies ad nauseam,” despite the discomfort he testified that the movies caused him. As such, Kaplan said, “[a] jury could find that was unreasonable,” refusing to modify jury instructions on whether Rapp’s conduct might lessen Spacey’s liability, reports Deadline.
Kaplan also said he was “very troubled” by a comment that Rapp made on the stand, in which he attempted to refer to other allegations of sexual misconduct made against Spacey. While Kaplan ordered the comment struck from the record and told the jurors to disregard the remark, he said was troubled by Rapp’s actions because he had previously stricken a similar statement earlier in the trial.
Spacey has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 men since Rapp’s allegations were published in 2017. He is set to face trial in the United Kingdom in June on four counts relating to an alleged sexual assault. But he has vehemently and repeatedly denied all allegations made against him.
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