Kevin Spacey Found Not Guilty Of Sex Crimes In UK Trial; Actor “Humbled” By Jury’s Verdict


After weeks of global headlines, star witnesses, and harrowing testimony from four accusers, Kevin Spacey was found not guilty Wednesday on all nine charges in his U.K. sexual assault trial.

A jury of nine men and three women, who began deliberating two days ago, acquitted Spacey, 63, of charges including indecent assault, sexual assault, and “causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity,” which would have carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

It marks yet another legal win for the embattled actor, who has faced allegations of sexual misconduct on both sides of the pond. In October, a New York federal jury found him not liable for battery in a civil lawsuit brought by Rent actor Anthony Rapp, who was one of the first people to publicly accuse Spacey of sexual misconduct in 2017, amid the #MeToo movement.

During the month-long trial in London’s Southwark Crown Court, prosecutors had painted the House of Cards actor as a “sexual bully” who preyed on four men between 2001 and 2013, while the actor was living in London. Three of the four accusers testified that Spacey aggressively groped them; the fourth said Spacey drugged him and performed non-consensual oral sex on him while he was passed out in Spacey’s flat.

One accuser described meeting Spacey in a pub with a group of friends before eventually going back to Spacey’s hotel bar for a drink. “At that point, he kissed my neck twice and grabbed my crotch. He said the words ‘be cool, be cool’ twice,” the man said in a recorded police interview played in court. “I put my arm between us and pushed him against a wall. I said ‘I am sorry, I don't bat for that team.’”

But the defense insisted that the encounters either didn’t happen or were consensual, arguing that it is “not a crime to have sex, even if you’re famous.”

Defense attorney Patrick Gibbs also questioned the truthfulness of the four accusers, calling them “liars” and claiming his client had been “tried by social media.”

“The reality is that false allegations, even apparently convincing false allegations, really do happen,” he said. “Not always, but really do sometimes happen, especially where fame and money and sex and secrets and shame and sexual confusion are all in the mix.”

Spacey himself took the stand in his own defense to tearfully and vehemently deny the charges. He told jurors he “did not have a power wand that I waved in front of people’s faces whenever I wanted someone to go to bed with me.”

He characterized the hotel bar incident as a “clumsy pass” and said that his accuser’s testimony backed up his claim that “the moment he told me he was not interested, I stopped.”

In response to a second accuser who said Spacey once grabbed his crotch so violently while driving that he nearly ran off the road, Spacey said, “That never happened. I was not on a suicide mission in any of those years.” The accuser said the grope happened while they were driving to Elton John’s annual gala in 2004 or 2005 but Spacey provided evidence that he was filming in Australia at the time.

In response to a third accuser who said Spacey violently and painfully grabbed his genitals at a charity event in 2005, Spacey said he would never publicly “embarrass me in such a way.”

And in response to his fourth accuser, who claimed Spacey assaulted him while he was passed out in Spacey’s flat, Spacey said the two had enjoyed a “very nice and lovely evening” but the man suddenly turned “suddenly awkward” during an intimate encounter and “hurriedly left.”

“If he regretted it immediately, I don’t know. I can’t speak for him, but something was weird,” Spacey said, adding that phone records showed the pair kept in contact for several months after.

Spacey also broke down on the stand as he described how he felt when Rapp accused him of sexual assault in 2017.

“My world exploded,” he told the court through tears. “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.”

The defense called on several witnesses to bolster their case, including Elton John and David Furnish, who testified remotely from Monaco about Spacey’s attendance at just one of the couple’s annual charity gala balls in 2001.

Nevertheless, prosecutor Christina Agnew insisted during closing arguments last week that the case involved an “enormous power imbalance” from a man “who is used to getting his own way.”

“Four separate men who told friends and relations what happened to them, then told police, then came to court to tell their accounts,” she said. “Are they all motivated by ‘money money money’ as you were dramatically told by the defendant when he gave his evidence? Or have they just had enough and are no longer prepared to be the ’secret keeper’ for someone who treated them so badly?”

Earlier this month, Rapp addressed Spacey’s trial to The Daily Beast, saying, “A trial is a harrowing experience for victims of abuse, and I sincerely hope these men are served with the proper outcome: that Kevin Spacey is punished for his crimes”

"My world exploded," Kevin Spacey told jurors as he gave evidence during his sexual assault trial. "There was a rush to judgement 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."

The Hollywood star fought back tears as he sat in the witness box at Southwark Crown Court in London, describing how initial allegations in the US in October 2017 - which were followed by those here in the UK, leading to the London court case - created a domino effect of claims, ruining his Oscar-winning career.

Jurors had to decide whether he was telling the truth, or if this was simply another performance.

As the initial allegations emerged, Spacey was largely shunned in Hollywood; quickly erased from Ridley Scott's All The Money In The World, released in December 2017 - with Christopher Plummer reshooting his scenes as billionaire John Paul Getty - and axed from his Golden Globe-winning role as scheming politician Frank Underwood in the Netflix political drama series House Of Cards.

Last year, the star and his production companies were ordered to pay $31m (about £24m) to make up for losses incurred due to his sacking, following "explosive" allegations of sexual misconduct against crew members.

But separate criminal charges in LA and Massachusetts had been dropped in 2018 and 2019 respectively. In 2022, Spacey was found not liable in a civil trial in New York.

Now, jurors here in the UK have cleared him of any criminal charges in relation to allegations by four men, who claimed the star sexually assaulted them in incidents that allegedly happened between 2001 and 2013.

The court was told that allegations by one man were "madness", and that Spacey had consensual sexual encounters with two others. He conceded to making a "clumsy pass" at a fourth man but said the incident was no more than this.

'Easy for accusers to lie about 'promiscuous' Spacey, court told

Jurors were told by the star of his determination to prove his innocence, doggedly digging through old records, boxes of photos, and any evidence that could disprove the claims. And his barrister, Patrick Gibbs KC, told them the star had been "canceled" and "tried by social media".

It was "easy" to lie about Spacey, Mr Gibbs said: "A man who is promiscuous, not publicly out, although everyone in the businesses knows he's gay, who wants to be just a normal guy, or at least some of the time he does - to drink beer and laugh and smoke weed and sit in the front and spend time with younger people who he's attracted to...

"It's not my life, it's not your life, perhaps it's a bit of an odd life, but it's a life that makes you an easy target when the internet turns against you and you're tried by social media."

'Does this verdict allow Kevin Spacey to be Kevin Spacey?'

Now, Spacey has been found not guilty. Does this mean he can revive his career?

"The verdict is a major victory for Spacey in clearing his name," said US celebrity lawyer Christopher Melcher. "Although he faced four accusers who told similar accounts of sexually aggressive behavior, Spacey steadfastly maintained his innocence.

"The verdict supports Spacey's denials of the accusations and provides a clear path for him to return to work as an actor. Producers are able to work with Spacey because he has been acquitted, which lessens their exposure if he is hired."

Media lawyer Matthew Dando, a partner at Wiggin LLP, said: "Kevin Spacey's acquittal won't change everyone's views on what has been said and reported throughout the trial, but it may well open the door to a comeback which would otherwise have been very firmly shut."

However, celebrity PR and brand expert Mark Borkowski is not so sure.

"Certainly the result has put a lot of the sort of noise that's surrounded this case behind him," he said. "The question is, does this verdict allow Kevin Spacey to be Kevin Spacey? To be that iconic actor who has oodles of talent to regain his position as one of the A-listers of Hollywood?

"Sadly not. We live in a corporate world now and raising money, getting insurance, all those other factors exist on social media, where mainstream media has not got the same power."

Before the court case, in an interview, Spacey said there were directors and producers "ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges in London".

Despite that happening, many filmmakers might still be wary of working with Spacey knowing any project could still be "dogged by negativity", Mr. Borkowski said.

"Kevin Spacey, if he wants to move forward, will be clinging to the hope that there is a radical independent filmmaker who is fearless, who has a wonderful script and a remarkable project with a number of actors who are willing to work on the project.

"And if it gets picked up on the independent movie circuit, you know where there are, how shall we say, countries like Italy, France, around the world that don't have the same perceptions as an American or a British audience or a German audience might have on this, there could be people who think, oh, that's been a commercial success, let's think about the next project.

"But it won't be a franchise movie, it will not be Disney or Marvel coming forward to take that on. It just is something that they would feel that is too dangerous in terms of negative publicity for their brand and some of the values that they project."

The stories about Sir Elton John and Dame Judi Dench

Sir Elton John and Kevin Spacey in 2002

During the trial, Sir Elton John - who was chairman of The Old Vic when Spacey was appointed - was called to give evidence, and the court also heard tales of Spacey teaching Dame Judi Dench to play ping pong; there was no avoiding the strange and surreal world of celebrity at the center of the case.

The timings of the UK claims mostly coincided with the actor's time working at the theatre. He was involved from 2001 and began his tenure as artistic director from 2003 to 2015. Signing him had been quite the coup, a chance to turn the venue's fortunes around.

Alistair Smith, editor of entertainment newspaper The Stage, interviewed Spacey towards the beginning of his tenure at the theatre, after he arrived as "a sort of Old Vic saviour figure" after a period in which it struggled financially.

"Previously, there was a real threat to its future," says Smith. "There was talk of it turning into a bingo hall or even a lap dancing club... [Spacey] coming in brought a lot more attention to it, it brought funding, it brought sponsors, and attention in the media. And so there was, when he joined, quite a lot of excitement about it."

Spacey's arrival was seen as a chance to revive an important theatrical institution, and people in the industry were excited to have a Hollywood star committing to London theatre.

Things didn't start well, but improved as Spacey performed more himself. By the time he left, the Old Vic "was financially secure and had rebuilt its artistic reputation". For a period, he had re-established the venue as one of London's leading theatres.

Whatever the verdict, there were accounts of 'inappropriate conduct in the workplace'

Exterior general view of The Old Vic theatre in London

But in November 2017, shortly after the allegations came out in the US, the Old Vic said it had received 20 allegations of inappropriate behavior made against Spacey. Only one of the claims was reported, an investigation found, but the staff was "unclear about how to respond".

In the wake of the scandal, the theatre implemented a "Guardians" program, designed to allow employees a confidential means of sharing concerns about behavior at work.

Despite the star now being cleared of criminal charges in the UK, the fallout from the accusations against him has still had a "massively damaging effect" on the venue's reputation, Smith says.

"Even before this court case, this trial, the 20 allegations against Kevin Spacey that came out of the Old Vic's own investigation in 2017, I think had raised some very serious questions about the Old Vic and how it handled having a star at its helm over that period."

Paul Fleming, general secretary of the actors' union Equity, says that despite the verdict, "nobody who is poorly treated in a workplace should ever be put in the position of having to bring something to a criminal trial".

He told Sky News: "There should be processes in a workplace to keep them healthy and safe. And that duty rests with the employer. I'm not convinced, six years on, that theatre producers, TV producers, film producers, have put in place robust enough systems to prevent allegations like this arising significantly after the event."

Mr Fleming said that there has been movement since the rise of #MeToo, but not enough. "There is no doubt that there are a series of accounts of inappropriate conduct in the workplace," he said. "Whether they're criminal or not has been a matter for the courts. The fact of the matter is there's a lot of behavior that is inappropriate, that is unsafe in the workplace, that there should be processes in place to allow people to resolve them."

For Spacey, these claims have overshadowed his once glittering acting career for six years - but all criminal charges are now behind him. After telling the court how he lost his work and his fortune, it's likely the star will be hoping this verdict can finally signal his Hollywood return.

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