By LARRY NEUMEISTER
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 he hugged lawyers and others before leaving the courtroom.
During the trial, Rapp had testified that Spacey 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 never would 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,” he said.
Spacey’s lawyer, Jennifer Keller, told jurors that Rapp made up the encounter and said they should reject Rapp’s claims.
During her closing argument, she 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.”
After jurors were sent away to deliberate, Keller drew sympathy from U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan when she complained that Steigman broke trial rules when he finished his summation by telling jurors that he hopes “you don’t let him get away with it this time.”
Kaplan had set rules that were meant to keep jurors from learning about sex abuse accusations made against Spacey that were not part of the trial evidence.
Keller called Steigman’s statement “another clear, premeditated attempt to let the jury know” about other claims against Spacey.
“I’m very concerned,” she added, saying it could affect the verdict.
Kaplan responded by saying Steigman’s statement “shouldn’t happen” and that if the jury ruled in Rapp’s favor, attorneys may need to make written arguments over the issue. He also said that Rapp during his testimony should not have mentioned that there were other claims made against Spacey.
This story has been updated to correct the day of the week in the lead paragraph to Thursday, not Tuesday.