Kevin Spacey was acquitted of sexual assault on Wednesday after the Oscar winner’s star turn as a witness in his own defence spared him a possible prison term and gave him a shot at a career comeback.
Tears rolled down Spacey’s cheeks as the final “not guilty” verdict was read. The actor looked at the jury, placed his hand over the lapel of his blue suit and mouthed the words “thank you.” It was his 64th birthday.
Spacey’s wide-ranging testimony culminated as he choked up speaking of the six years he’d gone without work after sex abuse allegations surfaced against him during the #MeToo movement in the US in 2017.
“My world exploded,” Spacey testified. “There was a rush to judgment and before the first question was asked or answered I lost my job, I lost my reputation, I lost everything in a matter of days.”
Three men accused the Oscar winner of aggressively grabbing their crotches, describing him as “vile” and a “slippery, snaky” predator. A fourth, an aspiring actor, said he awoke to the actor performing oral sex on him after going to Spacey’s London apartment for a career advice and a beer and either falling asleep or passing out.
Spacey said he was a “big flirt” who had consensual flings with men and whose only misstep was touching a man’s groin while making a “clumsy pass.”
Defence lawyer Patrick Gibbs said three of the men were liars and incidents had been “reimagined with a sinister spin.” He accused them of hopping on a “bandwagon” of complaints in the hope of striking it rich.
Prosecutor Christine Agnew told jurors that Spacey was a “sexual bully” who took what he wanted when he wanted. She said he was shielded by a “trinity of protection” – he knew men were unlikely to complain; they wouldn’t be believed if they did complain; and if they did complain, no action would be taken because he was powerful.
Spacey had faced nine charges, including multiple counts of sexual assault and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. Spacey had viewed the London case as a chance for redemption, telling German magazine Zeit last month that there were “people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges in London.”
The accusations date from 2001 to 2013 and include a period when Spacey — after winning Academy Awards for “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty” — had returned to the theatre, his first love. During most of that period, he was artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre in London.
The men came forward after an American actor accused Spacey of sexual misconduct as the #MeToo movement heated up in 2017. Several of the men said they had been haunted by the abuse and couldn’t bear to watch Spacey’s films.
One of the men broke down when speaking with police as he provided details in a videotaped interview about the oral sex incident that he said he’d never told anyone before. Another man said he was angry about the abuse that occurred sporadically over several years and began to drink and work out more to cope with it.
Spacey’s testimony was delivered in the warm, rich, calming voice that most audiences would instantly recognise. Under pressure when questioned by Prosecutor Christine Agnew, he did not take the menacing, cold tone of some of his calculating characters, but maintained his composure and only showed flashes of indignation delivered with a flourish.
At times, Spacey sounded like a regular guy, speaking about how he liked to smoke marijuana but was incapable of rolling a joint and that he sought sex during lonely periods, quipping “welcome to life.” He insisted that being promiscuous did not make him a bad person.
At other moments, though, it was clear this was someone from a different walk of life than the jurors. He talked about acting in high school with Val Kilmer, spoke about buying the most expensive Mini Cooper ever at a charity gala hosted by Elton John, and discussed how he taught Judi Dench to play table tennis while filming The Shipping News and later bought her a ping pong table.
Gibbs said Spacey was “monstered” on the internet every night and became toxic in the entertainment industry. Spacey was booted from “House of Cards” and his scenes in “All the Money in the World,” were scrubbed and he was replaced by Christopher Plummer. Aside from some small projects, he has barely worked as an actor in six years.
The court victory is his second since he beat a $40 million lawsuit last fall in New York brought by Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp. Prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped charges when the alleged victim suddenly refused to testify.
Los Angeles prosecutors declined to bring charges after the death of a massage therapist who said Spacey forced him to touch the actor’s genitals during a rub down at Spacey’s home in Malibu in 2016.
Spacey said that being out of work had left him with bills he’s still paying. An arbitrator in Los Angeles ordered Spacey to pay nearly $31 million to the makers of “House of Cards” for violating his contract by sexually harassing crew members.
- An AP report