LONDON (AP) — Kevin Spacey was acquitted of sexual assault on Wednesday after the Oscar winner’s testimony as a witness in his own defense spared him a possible prison term and gave him a shot at a career comeback.
Tears rolled down Spacey’s cheeks as the final “not guilty” verdict was read. It was his 64th birthday.
Spacey’s wide-ranging testimony climaxed as he choked up speaking of the six years he’d gone without work after sex abuse allegations surfaced against him during the #MeToo movement in the U.S. in 2017.
“My world exploded,” Spacey testified. “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.”
Three men accused the Oscar winner of aggressively grabbing their crotches. A fourth, an aspiring actor seeking mentorship, said he awoke to the actor performing oral sex on him after going to Spacey’s London apartment for a beer and either falling asleep or passing out.
Spacey said he was a “big flirt” who had consensual flings with men and whose only misstep was touching a man’s groin while making a “clumsy pass.”
Defense lawyer Patrick Gibbs said three of the men were liars and incidents had been “reimagined with a sinister spin.” He accused most of them of hopping on a “bandwagon” of complaints in the hope of striking it rich.
Prosecutor Christine Agnew told jurors that Spacey was a “sexual bully” who took what he wanted when he wanted. She said he was shielded by a “trinity of protection”: He knew men were unlikely to complain; they wouldn’t be believed if they did complain; and if they did complain, no action would be taken because he was powerful.
Spacey had faced nine charges, including multiple counts of sexual assault and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.
The accusations date from 2001 to 2013 and include a period when Spacey — after winning Academy Awards for “The Usual Suspects” and “American Beauty” — had returned to the theater, his first love. During most of that period he was artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre in London.
The men came forward after an American actor accused Spacey of an incident of sexual misconduct as the #MeToo movement heated up in 2017.
Several of the men said they had been haunted by the abuse and couldn’t bear to watch Spacey’s films.
One of the men broke down when speaking with police as he provided details in a videotaped interview about the oral sex incident that he said he’d never told anyone before. Another man said he was angry about the abuse that occurred sporadically over several years and began to drink and work out more to cope with it.
Spacey choked up and became teary-eyed in the witness box as he described the emotional and financial turmoil that the U.S. accusations brought and the barrage of criticism that followed on social media.
Gibbs said Spacey was being “monstered” on the internet every night and became toxic in the industry.
Spacey was booted from “House of Cards,” his scenes in “All the Money in the World,” were scrubbed and he was replaced by Christopher Plummer. Aside from some small projects, he has barely worked as an actor in six years. Spacey has since made Baltimore his permanent home.
A New York jury last year swiftly cleared Spacey in a $40 million lawsuit by “Star Trek: Discovery” actor Anthony Rapp on allegations dating back three decades.
Spacey had viewed the London case as a chance for redemption, telling German magazine Zeit last month that there were “people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges in London.”