Corrections & Clarifications: Britain's Crown Prosecution Service updated its news release to note that it has authorized criminal charges against Kevin Spacey. He cannot be formally charged until he sets foot in England or Wales.
Spacey, 62, faces a total of five authorized charges against three men for incidents that allegedly happened between 2005 and 2013, including causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.
One complainant alleged two incidents of sexual assault in March 2005 in London. The second complainant alleged sexual assault and penetrative sexual activity without consent in August 2008 in London. The third alleged sexual assault in April 2013 in Gloucestershire, England.
Unlike criminal charges in the U.S., prosecutors under English and Welsh law take the findings of a police investigation and then authorize charges to be filed when and if a defendant is physically in England and under arrest, a CPS spokesperson confirmed to USA TODAY.
USA TODAY has reached out to Spacey's most recent American criminal lawyer, Alan Jackson, for comment, and to his most recent civil attorneys.
Spacey did not respond when reporters caught up with him outside a federal courthouse in New York where he testified Thursday in a civil lawsuit filed against him by his original accuser, actor Anthony Rapp.
The new criminal charges were mentioned briefly by Rapp's lawyers during the court hearing, and Spacey's lawyers were asked about it by reporters during a break in testimony. They declined to comment.
The criminal charges in England "follow a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation," Rosemary Ainslie, Head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said in a statement. "The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr. Spacey are active and that he has the right to a fair trial."
It is not clear where Spacey currently resides. Mark Stephens, a prominent London lawyer with expertise in media law and U.S. law, said Spacey now faces a choice: He can either voluntarily go to London to be arraigned in a magistrate court on the charges, or the British government would seek to extradite him if refuses.
"He may be able to delay (extradition) but he will not be able to prevent (it) … He will have to come and answer the charges," Stephens tells USA TODAY. "If he is forced, it looks like he doesn't have an answer to the charges – he looks guilty."
If Spacey is extradited, Stephens said, he would be held at a police station in a cell, then transferred to a magistrate court in handcuffs in a van, and brought up from below the court into the dock.
Under those circumstances, Spacey would likely not be released on bail; he would be held until trial in a crown court, which would not take place for 12 to 18 months under current delays in the system, Stephens said.
"It is likely he will consent to come over here to face the charges," Stephens said.
Spacey also would have to hire a British lawyer to defend him, if he hasn't already, since Spacey would have been aware of the investigation under British procedures, Stephens said. Now that the authorized charges have revealed, the defendant can be named but the accusers will not be named even at trial.
"Sex-crime (accusers) are anonymized" under British law, Stephens said. "Even at the trial, the defense will know who they are but they often (testify) remotely by video or behind a (shield) so the jury knows who they are."
Spacey was questioned by British police in 2019 about claims by several men that he had assaulted them. The former “House of Cards” star ran London’s Old Vic Theatre between 2004 and 2015.
More than a dozen men and teen boys accused Spacey of sexual harassment and assault in 2017, after which the once-revered actor's career came to a halt. Spacey was fired from his starring role in the final season of Netflix political drama series "House of Cards" and his last role was in 2018's biodrama "Billionaire Boys Club."
"Rent" and "Star Trek: Discovery" actor Rapp was among the accusers. He told BuzzFeed in 2017 that he was 14 when he attended a party at Spacey's apartment, where he said an inebriated Spacey made sexual advances. Last month, Spacey asked a judge to throw out Rapp's sex abuse lawsuit, saying through his lawyers that the allegations are false.
In October 2017, Spacey issued a statement on Twitter saying he didn't remember the encounter but apologized. In the process, he came out as a gay man, sparking criticism he was trying to distract attention from Rapp's accusations.
"I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years," Spacey wrote.
A criminal case brought against him ended in 2019, when prosecutors in Nantucket, Massachusetts, announced they would drop the charge that Spacey sexually assaulted a teen bus boy at an island bar in the summer of 2016, "due to the unavailability of the complaining witness." At a pre-trial hearing, the accuser refused to testify and said he would plead the Fifth Amendment if questioned about the whereabouts of a key piece of evidence.
Since 2017, Spacey has mostly kept a low profile, occasionally releasing videos and interviews. In one video in 2018, he appeared to criticize the Me Too movement while in character as Frank Underwood, his "House of Cards" character. In a 2020 interview on the Bits & Pretzels podcast, he equated his downfall from sexual misconduct allegations to the struggles of those losing their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A year ago, Spacey landed his first role since being accused of sexual misconduct: He is set to appear in director Franco Nero's upcoming Italian film, "L'uomo Che Disegnò Dio," opposite Nero's wife, Vanessa Redgrave, ABC and CNN reported at the time.
"I'm very happy Kevin agreed to participate in my film," Nero told ABC. "I consider him a great actor and I can't wait to start the movie."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kevin Spacey: British prosecutors authorize sexual assault charges