Kevin Spacey Heads to Court on Thursday, in First of Four #MeToo Trials This Month

Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp are set to square off in a federal courtroom on Thursday, in the first of four #MeToo trials to get underway this month in New York and Los Angeles.

The other three trials involve producer Harvey Weinstein, director Paul Haggis and actor Danny Masterson. The four cases — two civil, two criminal — each involve at least one sexual assault allegation against a once-powerful celebrity whose career was badly damaged, if not destroyed, in the court of public opinion.

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Coming five years after the #MeToo movement began, the trials will involve similar themes — power imbalances in the entertainment industry, the dynamics of sexual assault, the reliability of memories, and the nature of due process.

In the first case, Rapp is suing Spacey for $40 million over an incident that took place in 1986, when Rapp was 14 years old. He has alleged that during a party at Spacey’s home in Manhattan, the actor picked him up, grabbed his buttocks, and laid down on top of him.

The allegation, first made in a Buzzfeed article in October 2017, was the first of many against Spacey, which led to his firing from “House of Cards” and to criminal charges in London. In August, a judge upheld a $31 million damages award against Spacey and in favor of MRC, the producer of “House of Cards,” over its costs for writing him out of the series.

The New York trial, to be held in the courtroom of Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, will be Spacey’s first opportunity to make his case to a jury.

Rapp, who is best known for his role on “Star Trek: Discovery,” is expected to be the key witness in his own case. Spacey is also expected to testify, though it is not clear exactly when. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Thursday, and opening statements are likely to be held before the end of the week.

The following week, jurors will be summoned to two courtrooms on the ninth floor of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. There, they will be screened for potential service in two rape cases, one involving Weinstein and the other involving Masterson.

Weinstein — whose accusers launched the #MeToo movement — is facing his second sexual assault trial, after being convicted on two charges in February 2020. He is serving 23 years in custody on that case, which he has appealed, and has been held at a medical facility at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility since July 2021 as he awaits the Los Angeles trial.

Jury selection in the Weinstein case is expected to last for at least two weeks, as his attorneys attempt to screen out jurors who are biased against him. They will also have to contend with the promotional campaign for “She Said,” a feature film due out in November based on the book by the New York Times reporters who first broke the allegations against him. The trial is expected to last through the end of November.

The Masterson case will be held at the opposite end of the hall, and should go somewhat more quickly. A key issue in that trial will be the role of the Church of Scientology, of which Masterson is a member. Prosecutors have sought to call Claire Headley, a prominent former Scientology, to offer expert testimony about the church. Masterson’s lawyers have argued against any mention of the church, saying that doing so will make the case drag on far longer than its allotted four weeks.

Scientology will also be an issue in the Haggis trial, which is also set to get underway next week at the Manhattan Civil Courthouse, a short walk from the federal courthouse where the Spacey trial will be taking place.

In the Haggis case, publicist Haleigh Breest has accused him of raping her after a movie premiere in 2013. Haggis has claimed that the sex was consensual and that she sought to extort him by demanding a multimillion-dollar settlement.

He has also alleged that he was the target of a Scientology harassment campaign, and has suggested that Breest’s allegations may be part of it. Both the church and Breest have denied that, and Breest’s lawyers sought to exclude any mention of Scientology from the trial.

Judge Sabrina Kraus, however, ruled that Haggis will be allowed to explore that defense.

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