A federal judge in Manhattan set the fast-approaching date Thursday, saying all parties must show up for jury selection that morning and be ready to provide a steady stream of witnesses. “Failure to have a witness ready to proceed may result in the party resting its case,” the stern order from U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan reads.
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The confirmed date caps months of legal wrangling in the case, with Rapp, a star of the hit Paramount+ series Star Trek: Discovery, asking to move the battle back to New York state court, where he originally sued, and Spacey attempting to get the whole lawsuit spiked. Judge Kaplan shot down both requests.
Rapp, 50, first sued Spacey in September 2020, nearly three years after first going public with his allegations in a 2017 BuzzFeed story and one year after a change in New York state law allowed him to file. According to Rapp, Spacey, now 63, befriended him when they both worked on Broadway and sexually assaulted him during a social gathering at Spacey’s Manhattan apartment in 1986 when Rapp was 14 years old.
The longtime stage performer and singer who originated the role of Mark Cohen in the original Broadway production of Rent claims Spacey cornered him in the bedroom, picked him up, touched his buttocks, laid him on a bed, and pressed his legs and groin into the young teen’s hips. Rapp says he was able to squirm away from Spacey, already in his late 20s, but the incident caused him great emotional distress.
Spacey, whose real name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, initially released a statement saying he couldn’t remember the incident, but if he “did behave” the way Rapp described, “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Once Rapp sued, Spacey, changed his position to state Rapp’s allegations were “false and never occurred.”
In his response filings, Spacey tried to get Rapp’s entire lawsuit dismissed by arguing the first claim of simple assault was too old to prosecute, and the second and third claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress did not involve the forcible touching of Rapp’s “intimate parts,” so they couldn’t be revived under New York’s Child Victims Act, a 2019 law that extended the time under which victims of childhood sex abuse could sue.
Judge Kaplan issued a split ruling in June, dismissing the simple assault claim as barred by the statute of limitations but keeping Rapp’s other two claims. In his written decision, the judge said case law is clear that “intimate parts” are not defined solely in terms of anatomy. He found that if someone is being forcibly kissed or licked on the neck, for example, the neck can qualify as an intimate part.
“This court is obliged to consider the manner and circumstances in which the touching allegedly took place in addition to the specific body parts with which contact allegedly was made,” Judge Kaplan wrote. “In this context, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mr. Fowler engaged in forcible touching of Mr. Rapp’s ‘intimate parts.’”
In a separate ruling in June, Judge Kaplan denied Rapp’s bid to send the case back to New York state court, where it was first filed. The judge found that Rapp failed to show Spacey’s primary residence is in London, as opposed to Maryland, where Spacey lived during the production of the hit Netflix show House of Cards. Spacey’s declared residency in another state caused the case to be transferred to federal court in the first place, against Rapp’s wishes.
Defendants typically prefer federal courts to state courts for various reasons, including the perception federal courts impose tighter restrictions on discovery and tend to draw jurors from both rural and urban areas.
Rapp’s decision to step forward and accuse Spacey kicked off a wave of further accusations in a CNN article that ultimately led to Spacey’s firing from House of Cards and the $31 million arbitration award he was ordered to pay for breaching his contract by harassing young crew members.
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