Kevin Spacey arrived in a Massachusetts courtroom Monday to face a sex-crime charge that he groped a teenage busboy in a bar on Nantucket Island in 2016. The judge set the next pre-trial court date for March 4.
But first Spacey faced a massive media scrum of cameras of the sort he’s been avoiding for more than a year.
The two-time Oscar-winning actor has said in court documents he would plead not guilty to a charge of felony indecent assault and battery.
He arrived in the tiny courtroom jammed with media people. Spacey, who was wearing a suit and tie and looked haggard, was ordered to have no contact with his accuser or his family, and released.
Spacey’s arraignment on the charge comes more than a year after former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh accused the ex “House of Cards” star of sexually assaulting her son, then 18, in the crowded Club Car restaurant bar where the teen worked as a busboy in the summer of 2016.
Spacey, who was charged under his real last name of Fowler, appeared as a crowd of reporters, photographers and TV cameras from around the world gathered outside the tiny Nantucket District Court hours before the arraignment.
About 20 minutes before the proceeding was to start, network TV cameras on helicopters and drones were trained on and following a car they said was carrying Spacey to the courthouse.
When he got to the courthouse door, there were so many cameras around him he was hard to see.
The media’s mission: to capture Spacey’s “perp walk,” the first official images of the shamed star since he disappeared from public view more than a year ago as multiple men came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct dating back decades and crossing multiple jurisdictions.
Spacey had sought to avoid this scene, insisting he didn’t need to be physically present to enter a plea. His lawyers filed a motion to seeking approval for Spacey to skip appearing in person at his arraignment to avoid tainting a potential jury pool before trial.
Spacey’s team argued in court papers that his presence “will amplify the negative publicity already generated in connection with this case.”
But Judge Barrett denied the motion without explaining his reasons. Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office weighed in by arguing against excusing Spacey, citing Rule 7 of the state criminal code.
Although Spacey, 59, has been accused by more than a dozen men of sexual misconduct, the Nantucket charge, revealed at the end of December 2018, is the first and so far sole criminal charge against him. (He is still under investigation in Los Angeles and London.)
It also makes him only the second man to be criminally charged out of dozens of entertainment and media figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct since October 2017 and the subsequent surge of the #MeToo movement.
Spacey’s lawyers and publicists say he has consistently denied any non-consensual sex with anyone. Aside from a statement he issued apologizing to his first accuser, actor Anthony Rapp, and also coming out as gay, Spacey has said nothing to the media.
But after the charge against him became public on Dec. 24, within hours Spacey posted a baffling video of himself on YouTube in which he pretended to be his “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood, and suggested people should not believe “the worst without evidence.”
Spacey’s video brought a surge of mocking, outraged tweets from celebs and non-celebs alike. “Creepy,” pronounced actress Alyssa Milano, an outspoken activist in the #MeToo movement. Lawyers questioned whether Spacey’s move was rash legally speaking, while public relations experts wondered if he had done himself more harm than good in the court of public opinion.
Few of the #MeToo accused have suffered as precipitous a fall as Spacey. His life, career and reputation were shattered in the days after Rapp publicly accused him of attempted statutory rape in Spacey’s New York apartment in 1986 when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 27.
Spacey was subsequently fired from his starring role in “House of Cards,” was edited out of a major movie, lost a deal to make a Gore Vidal bio-pic, was accused of sexual misconduct by 20 employees at London’s Old Vic theater where he was artistic director for more than a decade, and came under investigation by police in multiple jurisdictions. Eventually he fled to a sex-addiction rehab center in Arizona, where paparazzi snapped surreptitious pictures of him.
Then he disappeared from public view, only to turn up last week in a luxury townhouse in Baltimore’s pricey Inner Harbor (“House of Cards” was made in Baltimore), where a tabloid photographer captured pictures of him in a baseball cap reading “Retired since 2017.” Spacey bought the photographer a Domino’s pizza and told him to “have a happy New Year.”
The Nantucket case emerged in November 2017 when Unruh called a press conference in Boston to accuse Spacey of getting her son drunk and sticking his hands down his pants in the restaurant bar where her son was working as a busboy in the summer of 2016.
On Monday, Unruh’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, emailed a statement on behalf of Unruh’s son, declining to comment on the criminal case but praising Spacey’s accuser.
“By reporting the sexual assault, my client is a determined and encouraging voice for those victims not yet ready to report being sexually assaulted. My client is leading by example,” Garabedian’s statement said.
The investigation of Unruh’s son’s allegation was conducted by the Massachusetts State Police. On Dec. 20, at a probable-cause hearing in Nantucket District Court, a local magistrate heard evidence presented by the state police – and cross-examined by Spacey’s lawyer – and ruled there was enough to proceed with charging Spacey.
Among the evidence presented: A three-minute phone video shot by the accuser who told police it showed Spacey groping him, and that he sent it to his girlfriend via Snapchat who confirmed she saw it before it disappeared.
Jackson elicited testimony from an investigator who conceded that the video didn’t show it was Spacey’s hand touching the front of someone’s pants.
Testimony also showed that the accuser lied to Spacey about his age, that he drank with Spacey even though he was too young to drink, that he approached Spacey first in the bar, that he exchanged phone numbers with Spacey, and that he did not move away or tell Spacey to stop for up to three minutes while he was allegedly being groped.
If convicted, Spacey faces up to five years in prison.
Contributing: The Associated Press