By David K. Li and Adam Reiss
NANTUCKET, Mass. — A Massachusetts judge on Monday ordered Kevin Spacey to stay away from his accuser, during the actor’s first courtroom appearance on sex-abuse charges.
The Oscar winner, facing felony indecent assault and battery, showed no emotion during his 10-minute-long hearing before Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett.
Defense lawyer Alan Jackson entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of his client, according to court documents. Spacey was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim or his family.
“Sir, you’ll meet with probation. You’ll sign those conditions,” Barrett told Spacey. “You’re required to stay away and have no contact, direct or indirect, with the alleged victim.”
Barrett granted a defense request that cell phone data of the accuser be preserved for a six-month period after the July 7, 2016 incident.
Jackson said there could be texts or social media chatter there, helpful to his client.
“This is data that we believe is, not only potentially exculpatory, but likely exculpatory for Mr. Spacey,” Jackson told the court. “I simply don’t want to see any of that data deleted, destroyed — even inadvertently.”
In a court filing on Monday, Jackson previewed his defense strategy and attacked the victim as unreliable, accusing him of creating “an entirely false persona” during that 2016 encounter.
“He claimed he was a 23-year-old college students studying business at Wake Forest University,” wrote Jackson, a former prosecutor from Los Angeles best known for winning a murder conviction against famed music producer Phil Spector.
“In fact, aside from his name, everything (the victim) told Mr. Fowler was a lie. In point of fact, (the victim) was 18 years old, not in college and had taken a summer job bussing tables on the island.”
Spacey’s next pre-trial hearing was set for March 4. The judge ruled Spacey could skip that hearing, but had to be near a telephone in case the court had any questions for him.
Spacey — who wore a gray suit, dark vest, a purple-and-white floral pattern shirt and a purple tie with white dots — was mobbed by reporters and camera crews as he arrived and left court.
A court clerk read the charges, calling him by his birth name. “Kevin S. Fowler.” But throughout the hearing, he was called by his acting name, Spacey.
The charges Spacey faces stem from an allegation that first came to light in November 2017 when the accuser’s mother, a former Boston TV news anchor, came forward.
Heather Unruh, said Spacey groped her then 18-year-old son during a random meeting in July 2016 at the Club Car Restaurant in Nantucket.
Unruh’s son had said he wouldn’t be in court for Monday’s hearing.
“By reporting the sexual assault, my client is a determined and encouraging voice for those victims not yet ready to report being sexually assaulted,” the accuser’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, said in a statement on Monday before the hearing. “My client is leading by example.”
Spacey faces up to five years behind bars, if convicted of all charges.
Spacey has generally kept a low-profile since several men have accused him of sexual misconduct — allegations he denied.
Unruh made her accusations just five days after Netflix, makers of his hit show “House of Cards,” cut ties with Spacey.
The actor tweeted a video on Christmas Eve looking into the camera and speaking in a southern accent that appeared to mimic his “Cards” character, President Frank Underwood. He seemed to reference his “Cards” termination.
“Despite all the poppycock, the animosity, the headlines, the impeachment without a trial. Despite everything,” said Spacey, wearing a Santa Claus apron and standing in a kitchen. “Despite even my own death, I feel surprisingly good and my confidence grows each day that soon enough you will know the full truth.”
Adam Reiss reported from Nantucket, David K. Li reported from New York.
Kevin Spacey pleads not guilty, and his attorneys want key texts to be preserved
Spacey, the 59-year-old Hollywood actor, was arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery, a felony charge that comes with up to five years in prison.
Prosecutors asked that he stay away from the alleged victim and his family, and the court agreed. Defense attorneys asked the court to preserve cell phone data and other text messages from the victim from the date of the incident until six months afterward, which defense attorneys said would be “likely exculpatory” for Spacey.
The next court appearance is scheduled for March 4. The judge agreed to waive Spacey’s right to appear at that hearing at the downtown Nantucket courthouse, but he must be reachable by phone.
The charge stems from an incident in July 2016 at the Club Car, a restaurant and bar on Nantucket. According to the criminal complaint
, an 18-year-old busboy at Club Car told Spacey that he was 23 and befriended the actor, known for his roles in the film “The Usual Suspects” and the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
The busboy’s shift ended at midnight, after which he changed his clothes and began talking to Spacey. According to the complaint, the busboy told police Spacey bought him a number of alcoholic drinks, bragged to him about the size of his penis, and tried to get him to go back to the actor’s house afterward.
Later, as the two stood near the piano player in the bar, Spacey reached over and began to rub the busboy’s thigh, the complaint states. Spacey then unzipped the accuser’s pants and rubbed his penis, both in and out of his pants, for about three minutes, he told police.
The busboy filmed a short part of the alleged groping on Snapchat and sent the video to his girlfriend, the complaint states. In his interview with police, investigators showed the busboy that video and confirmed his and Spacey’s clothing that night.
After several minutes, Spacey got up to go to the bathroom and the 18-year-old left the bar and went home, the complaint states.
Last week, Spacey’s attorneys had asked that he be allowed to waive his right to be physically present at Monday’s arraignment, saying he lived out-of-state and believed his presence would “amplify the negative publicity already generated” in the case.
However, Judge Thomas Barrett denied that request
. And on Monday, satellite trucks and dozens of media members arrived on the island to see the actor face the felony charge in court.
Defense previews its strategy
Spacey’s arraignment comes more than a year after the busboy’s mother went public with the allegations against Spacey. Heather Unruh, a former TV news anchor in New England, held a press conference in November 2017 saying her son had been sexually assaulted by Spacey.
The busboy told his family about the alleged assault at the time but did not report the incident to police until more than a year later. He decided to come forward and tell police because he did not want what happened to him to happen to someone else, he said in the complaint.
In a recent hearing to determine if there was enough evidence for Spacey to be charged, Spacey’s lawyers questioned a Massachusetts state trooper about the video.
Their questioning hinted at their strategy, focusing on the amount of time it took the accuser to go to police and his behavior on and off camera.
The Snapchat video is less than one second long. It shows a hand making contact with a shirt, but no body parts are visible in the video, Trooper Gerald Donovan said.
“Instead of walking away or moving away or moving back or grabbing the wrist or slapping the hand, he indicated to you that, during that 3-minute time period, that he was texting and Snapchatting?” lawyer Alan Jackson asked, referring to the busboy’s statements to police.
“That’s correct,” Donovan responded.
Spacey and the #MeToo movement
Once one of Hollywood’s most famous and recognizable actors, Spacey’s career collapsed in November 2017 following several allegations of sexual assault and harassment.
First, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him in 1986 when he was 14 years old and Spacey was 26, Rapp told BuzzFeed News
In a Twitter statement, Spacey said he did not remember the incident but offered an apology. In that same statement, he came out as a gay man, a decision sharply criticized
for its seeming attempt to conflate his sexuality with a serious allegation of wrongdoing.
“Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive officer of GLAAD tweeted at the time. The actor did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Netflix fired Spacey days later following a CNN report
in which several current and former members of the “House of Cards” production staff came forward with allegations of sexual harassment. One former production assistant told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him during one of the show’s early seasons.
Spacey had been silent since his apology until late December, when he posted a video to his Twitter account
speaking directly to the camera in the persona of his “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood. The character was killed off in the show after Spacey was fired.
“Of course some believed everything and have just been waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all,” he said with the character’s Southern accent. “They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t that be easy if it was all so simple? Only you and I both know it’s not that simple, not in politics and not in life.”
“But you wouldn’t believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn’t rush to judgment without facts, would you? Did you?” he said.