NEW YORK — A jury sided with Kevin Spacey on Thursday in one of the lawsuits that derailed the film star’s career, finding he did not sexually abuse Anthony Rapp, then 14, while both were relatively unknown actors in Broadway plays in 1980s.
The verdict in the civil trial came with lightning speed. Jurors at a federal court in New York deliberated for a little more than an hour before deciding that Rapp hadn’t proven his allegations.
When the verdict was read, Spacey dropped his head, then hugged his lawyers. He didn’t speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.
During the trial, Rapp testified that Spacey had invited him to his apartment for a party, then approached him in a bedroom after the other guests left. He said the actor, then 26, picked him up and briefly laid on top of him on a bed.
Rapp testified that he wriggled away and fled as an inebriated Spacey asked if he was sure he wanted to leave.
In his sometimes-tearful testimony, Spacey told the jury it never happened, and he would never have been attracted to someone who was 14.
The lawsuit sought $40 million in damages.
In his closing statements to the jury Thursday, Rapp’s lawyer, Richard Steigman, accused Spacey of lying on the witness stand.
“He lacks credibility,” Steigman said. “Sometimes the simple truth is the best. The simple truth is that this happened.”
Spacey’s lawyer, Jennifer Keller, said after the trial that the defense was “very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations.”
During closing arguments, she told jurors that Rapp made up the encounter and suggested reasons Rapp imagined the encounter with Spacey or made it up.
It was possible, she said, that Rapp invented it based on his experience performing in “Precious Sons,” a play in which actor Ed Harris picks up Rapp’s character and lays on top of him, mistaking him briefly for his wife before discovering it is his son.
She also suggested that Rapp later became jealous that Spacey became a megastar while Rapp had “smaller roles in small shows” after his breakthrough performance in Broadway’s “Rent.”
“So here we are today and Mr. Rapp is getting more attention from this trial than he has in his entire acting life,” Keller said.
Rapp, 50, and Spacey, 63, each testified over several days at the three-week trial.
Rapp’s claims, and those of others, abruptly interrupted what had been a soaring career for the two-time Academy Award winning actor, who lost his job on the Netflix series “House of Cards” and saw other opportunities dry up. Rapp is a regular on TV’s “Star Trek: Discovery” and was part of the original Broadway cast of “Rent.”
Spacey faced charges in Massachusetts that he groped a man at a bar — allegations that were later dropped by prosecutors.
Three months ago, he pleaded not guilty in London to charges that he sexually assaulted three men between 2004 and 2015 when he was the artistic director at the Old Vic theater in London.
A judge in Los Angeles this summer approved an arbitrator’s decision to order Spacey to pay $30.9 million to the makers of “House of Cards” for violating his contract by sexually harassing crew members.
The Associated Press does not usually name people alleging sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Rapp has done.
At the trial, Spacey testified that he was sure the encounter with Rapp never happened, in part because he was living in a studio apartment rather than the one bedroom that Rapp cited, and he never had a gathering beyond a housewarming party.
“I knew I wouldn’t have any sexual interest in Anthony Rapp or any child. That I knew,” he told jurors.
During two days of testimony, Spacey also expressed regret for a statement he issued when Rapp first went public in which he said he didn’t recall the encounter, but if it happened “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.”
Dabbed his eyes with a tissue, Spacey said he’d been pressured by publicists and lawyers into issuing an empathetic statement at a time when the #MeToo movement made everyone in the industry nervous.
“I’ve learned a lesson, which is never apologize for something you didn’t do,” he said.
He also cried as he said he regretted revealing publicly that he was gay the same day Rapp’s accusations surfaced because some interpreted his announcement as an effort to change the subject or deflect from Rapp’s revelations.
Spacey had testified that he spoke at the trial about deeply personal matters, telling the jury his father was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi who berated him as gay because he liked the theater.
Spacey also gave courtroom spectators a brief taste of his acting chops when he briefly imitated his Broadway costar at the time, Jack Lemon. He had testified earlier that his ability at impressions aided him in his acting career.