Kevin Spacey Team Quickly Goes Scorched Earth in Sexual Assault Trial


The savage mockery began almost immediately.

Standing just feet away from 12 jurors packed into a cold courtroom on the 21st floor of Manhattan federal court, Kevin Spacey’s attorney on Thursday wasted no time trying to demolish Anthony Rapp, who says the erstwhile A-list star sexually assaulted him when he was a teenager.

Sometimes using air quotes around the words “victim” and “story,” Jennifer Keller tried to argue that Rapp—himself a successful actor—“found a way to blame Mr. Spacey for everything that went wrong with this life.”

The lawyer’s rhetorical broadside against Rapp, who made a name for himself with decades-long acting and singing gigs that included roles in Rent and Star Trek: Discovery, was brutal, if not exactly shocking in and of itself. But that Spacey was being forced to defend himself at all years after being accused of serial predation was remarkable given just how systematically he has evaded the justice system.

Thursday’s opening statements in Manhattan federal court launched the trial over the $40 million lawsuit Rapp filed against Spacey in 2020. In the civil case, a jury will be tasked with deciding whether Spacey is liable for Rapp’s claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the American Beauty actor allegedly assaulted Rapp at a Manhattan party in 1986.

As their lawyers told dramatically different stories about an incident four decades prior, the actors sat in their respective seats, staring at the jury or evidence exhibits and declining to make eye contact with each other.

The trial began five years after Rapp first detailed his claims in a bombshell Buzzfeed article, spurring Spacey to release a statement indicating he did not remember the alleged encounter while offering an apology “for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”

“He picked me up, you know, his hand, you know, grazed my butt and legs and picked me up and laid down on top of me on the bed,” Rapp said in a February 2021 deposition. “Put me down on the bed and laid down on top of me, holding me and pressuring me with the full weight of his body.”

“And this was something that was utterly shocking and unwanted and had no—I had no idea that that was something that was going to occur. And it was extraordinarily upsetting and I froze,” he added.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Former Boston news anchor Heather Unruh, center, holds a press conference in 2017 to discuss the alleged sexual abuse of her son by actor Kevin Spacey. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff</div>

Former Boston news anchor Heather Unruh, center, holds a press conference in 2017 to discuss the alleged sexual abuse of her son by actor Kevin Spacey.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Rapp wasn’t alone. Instead, an avalanche of allegations against Spacey—dating back decades, involving mostly young and underage men but also women—followed him.

Despite the slew of claims pointing to a pattern of predatory abuse, the House of Cards actor has dodged criminal charges in the United States, even as he faces one criminal case in the United Kingdom (and his career is in tatters).

As the years went by, two potential prosecutions in Los Angeles and Massachusetts crumbled. Another accuser died. Then a judge booted a second accuser from Rapp’s own federal lawsuit after he declined to reveal his identity.

In the end, over a dozen individuals accused 63-year-old Spacey of sexual misconduct after Rapp broke his silence in 2017, allegations Spacey has roundly denied. Five years later, Rapp is the only one left facing the disgraced actor in an American courtroom.

“Over the years, Mr. Spacey has been able to dodge a number of bullets,” Ron Austin, a civil litigation lawyer with no connection to the case, told The Daily Beast. “But this trial is a firing squad he cannot avoid. Now, he might have to finally answer the allegations against him.”

In his own opening statements Thursday, Rapp’s lawyer Peter Saghir painted a picture of a disturbing incident that “was wrong and quite frankly unacceptable.” He recalled how Spacey had invited Rapp and his friend, John Barrowman, to dinner after one of Spacey’s shows, which quickly turned into an evening at the Limelight, a now-defunct club in Chelsea.

Saghir said the outing saw Spacey invite Rapp to another intimate party at his apartment days later. At the party, Saghir said, Rapp felt uncomfortable surrounded by adults, and went into a bedroom to watch David Letterman.

Later, the lawyer said, Rapp saw Spacey “standing in the doorway,” his “eyes glassy and unfocused”—leading the teenager to deduce that he was drunk.

Spacey then allegedly “lifts Anthony up like a groom carrying a bride over the threshold,” before putting him on his bed and laying on top of him. Rapp was “frozen in shock” before he was able to wiggle away to the bathroom, according to his attorney, who said Rapp bolted for the front door after collecting himself, but that Spacey cornered him and said, “Are you sure you want to go?”

Spacey’s lawyers say the party never happened—and that Rapp made up the story because he was jealous of the actor’s international accolades.

“Mr. Rapp felt he deserved that success,” Keller said about Spacey’s career.

The civil trial marks the first time Spacey is facing a jury in connection to sexual abuse allegations against him, but does not represent his most existential legal threat. In the United Kingdom, he has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges he sexually assaulted three men between March 2005 and August 2008 during his artistic director tenure at London’s Old Vic Theatre. He will face trial there next June.

The harrowing allegations against Spacey cascaded almost immediately after Rapp told his story to Buzzfeed.

The day after the article was published, Spacey released a statement on Twitter addressing Rapp’s allegations, suggesting he did not remember the alleged encounter 30 years prior but was “horrified to hear his story.” After apologizing, Spacey said the story prompted him to publicly address his sexuality, stating that he has “had relationships with both men and women” and he now chooses “to live as a gay man.”

Austin suggested that the apology will definitely be a focal point of Rapp’s legal case during the trial, since Spacey initially did not deny the incident may well have occurred. (Since posting the apology, which is still live on his Twitter account, Spacey has flatly denied Rapp’s allegations.)

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Actor Anthony Rapp arrives to attend a civil trial hearing on sexual abuse charges brought by him against actor Kevin Spacey.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">ANGELA WEISS</div>

Actor Anthony Rapp arrives to attend a civil trial hearing on sexual abuse charges brought by him against actor Kevin Spacey.


More violent allegations came next, including those by a man identified only as C.D. in Rapp’s original lawsuit. In the lawsuit—and in an interview with New York Magazine—C.D. said that Spacey pursued a sexual relationship with him and then attacked him when he was just 14 years old in 1983.

The unidentified man said that he had met Spacey two years prior as a student in his acting class and the pair engaged in sex acts while he was a minor several times in New York. During those incidents, C.D. said in court papers, Spacey would often promise to help him with his acting career.

“He was telling me that there were producers who were really interested in me as an actor and that he wanted to get me auditions,” C.D. told New York in 2017. “He hadn’t seen me act since I was 12.”

Eventually, C.D. said, he ended the relationship after Spacey attempted to rape him, which Spacey’s lawyer has repeatedly denied.

Despite the allegations, which were added to Rapp’s lawsuit when it was filed in 2020, C.D. will never tell his story in court. Last year, after pressure from Spacey’s lawyers, a judge dropped him from the civil lawsuit because he refused to reveal his name in court proceedings.

Several others have accused Spacey of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers, including one anonymous individual who said he was 17 when Spacey “groomed” him in 1985, and a performing arts teacher who said she was pressured to have sex with the actor a year later when she was an adolescent assistant on Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

By 2018, Spacey had been dropped by his publicist and talent agency and scrubbed from several films. He was also fired from his Netflix role in House of Cards after eight staffers told CNN Spacey had sexually harassed them during production. (Spacey denied the allegations, but a judge last month ordered the actor to pay almost $31 million for funds lost by his actions and termination.)

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in 2018 announced they were investigating allegations made by another anonymous individual who claimed Spacey had sexually assaulted him in 1992. Prosecutors ultimately decided not to file charges in the case because it fell outside of the statute of limitations.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey attend the world premiere of House of Cards Season 3 in 2015 in London. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Dave J Hogan</div>

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey attend the world premiere of House of Cards Season 3 in 2015 in London.

Dave J Hogan

Around the same time, a massage therapist alleged that Spacey offered him oral sex and forced him to grope his genitals in 2016. The anonymous therapist ultimately sued Spacey—a case the actor tried to dismiss because he, too, declined to reveal his identity.

In 2019, the accuser died and his case was dismissed.

Nantucket prosecutors in 2018 hit Spacey with his first criminal charge: indecent assault and battery for allegedly sexually assaulting the son of a former Boston news anchor at a bar in 2016. According to Heather Unruh, Spacey bought her 18-year-old son “drink after drink after drink” before suddenly reaching into his pants and grabbing his genitals.

The charges spurred the actor to post a bizarre Twitter video. “If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do,” Spacey said in the December 2018 video, in which he for some reason decided to reprise his sociopath House of Cards character.

Time and time again, however, potential cases against Spacey fell apart. In 2019, the Nantucket charges were dropped after Unruh’s son refused to testify about a missing cell phone the defense was seeking—and his mother admitted to deleting videos of the teenager smoking a bong from his phone before handing it over to authorities. The Unruh family also filed a civil lawsuit, only to drop it just days later.

Just hours after the criminal case was dropped, Spacey’s estranged brother went on a podcast to slam the actor—and call him a “monster whose whole life was a lie.”

That Spacey has been able to legally bypass a storm of allegations against him makes Rapp’s case all the more pivotal to his accusers—and advocates for survivors of sexual violence more generally.

“This case is a victory in the sense that victims of all ages, genders, shapes, and colors are finally having their voices heard,” Austin, the outside civil litigator, said. “Times have changed, and sexual abuse survivors are demanding the justice they have long been denied.”

But Heather Unruh, who saw her son’s case against Spacey crumble before her eyes just three years ago, wasn’t holding her breath—and didn’t plan to keep tabs on a trial she knew would be an ugly one.

“I’m sure there will be victim blaming and that will trigger a lot of anger and sadness,” she told The Daily Beast.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.