Kevin Spacey Trial: Day 1 Update | Yesterday morning six men and six women were selected for jury duty for Rapp et al. v. Fowler before His Honor, Justice Lewis A Kaplan. Opening arguments began at 2:00.
With the burden of proof resting heavily on the shoulders of the balding 50-year-old former child actor Anthony Rapp, the New York Southern District Court readied itself for opening statements on the high-profile case.
Because Anthony Rapp is the plaintiff in the case, his side presents their arguments first. This allows them to carefully craft the narrative of their case and control how the jury gets to learn about certain information. In addition, it lets those bringing the charges position themselves as best they can.
Ironically, this is where the first significant blow to Rapps’s allegations surfaces—at the hands of Rapp’s attorney.
Kevin Spacey; Anthony Rapp – Opening Statements
Twenty minutes into his opening statements, the attorney for plaintiff Anthony Rapp, Mr. Peter Saghir, stated that “Kevin Spacey climbs on top of him [Anthony Rapp], and grinds his pelvis against the side of his hip..“
And with those 17 words, Mr. Saghir contradicts the sworn testimony his client provided during pre-trial depositions—and just about everywhere else, any time he offers a version of his assault allegation.
In sworn testimony, Rapps describes the alleged event as follows.
[Kevin Spacey] “approached me, and he picked me up; he put his arm beneath me, because I was sitting on the edge of the bed. So he put his hand under my butt and down my legs to my knees, like scooped me like that and held me like a bride in that famous image…he laid me down on the bed on my back, and he laid on top of me…it felt like drunk and clumsy… his full weight was on my body…His hands were like behind my back clutching my shoulders…pressing his weight into me. I don’t recall him saying anything…was able to make the decision to squirm away…he wasn’t grinding into me, he wasn’t caressing me, it was just sort of dead weight and holding me.”– Anthony Rapp
Did you catch that?
Just to be sure you did, let me highlight the important part:
“he wasn’t grinding into me”Anthony Rapp, describing his alleged encounter with actor Kevin Spacey.
But his lawyer just told the jury:
“[Kevin Spacey] grinds his pelvis against the side of his [Anthony Rapp] hip..”Peter Saghir, Attorney for Rapp
That’s the problem.
Mr. Saghir’s long jump to assert something his client has outright denied is, well, let’s call it ballsy.
On the official scorecard, I’ve got to deduct a point from the plaintiff’s side.
The remainder of Saghir’s opening statements is rather perfunctory. There’s nothing really remarkable. It’s textbook opening statements from the veteran lawyer; solid and straightforward but rather unimpressive to anyone who’s read the Buzzfeed allegations.
And that’s likely not by accident.
By aligning with the original allegations Mr. Rapp made to his long-time pal, Adam Vary, the plaintiff’s side can assert that this has been the one true account since the beginning.
L. A. Confidential
What I found odd, however, was Mr. Saghir’s L. A. Confidential reference.
“Back in Illinois, Anthony tells a friend what Kevin Spacey did… Time went up, Spacey became better known”
This statement sets up an opportunity to talk about the people Rapp confided in back home in Illinois, those he claims to have told after the alleged incident. So, circa 1986 or 1987.
Next, Mr. Saghir says, “Anthony’s friends ask him, Did you see “L.A. Confidential?” And he remembers what happened in that bedroom.”
Logically, I’d guess he’s attempting to assert that his client told friends in 1986. But, by telling the jury, Rapp shared his story after L. A. Confidential came out?
L.A. Confidential came out in 1997, and its inclusion here is another oddity because it actually lends credence to the defense, which asserts Mr. Rapp is jealous of Spacey.
L. A. Confidential was nominated for nine Academy Awards, won two and was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry because it is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Meanwhile, in 1997, Mr. Rapp was still a struggling actor, hoping for a hit. He landed two television episodes that year (The X-Files and Detour) and a “low-budget independent gay film” (David Searching) which failed to earn wide release.
Gotta deduct half point from the plaintiff’s side for highlighting that the defendant was successful and that the plaintiff has good reason to be “bitter.”
Saghir wrapped up his opening statements concerning Spacey’s supposed drug and alcohol consumption around the time of the alleged events and attempted to paint Spacey as “retreating from his words.”
He could have made a more robust assertion here, provided better context, or added anything that might add heft to his argument beyond saying Spacey commented on drug and alcohol use in a draft of this Tweet response to the Buzzfeed interview. Unless, of course, there isn’t anything else to support it.
0.5 points to the plaintiff.
In her first at-bat, defense attorney Jennifer Keller grounds a strong double: “This case is about whether you think this happened. It is not a trial of every other rumor.”
Her first volley cuts to the core of what they want, what this trial is about, and what it’s not. In a case besieged with opacity, shadows, and rumors, clarity is solid footing.
Keller reaffirms the mission with her second statement: “It’s not about if you like Frank Underwood. It’s about this thing – did it happen? “
Reminding the jury of their vital role in this litigious event is smart.
With a high-profile celebrity and surrounding media frenzy, it’s essential to keep those in charge of making decisions well-grounded in what is expected of them.
Keller targets Rapp’s lack of success early on, inadvertently building on the plaintiff’s early L. A. Confidential reference. She cites Mr. Rapp’s failure to be “the international star Kevin Spacey” was as the reason for his invention of the allegation.
That can’t be easy for a Star Trek actor to hear.
Next up, she introduces Rapp’s memoir and his violent temper.
“He wrote a book about this, about his life. He’d hit his mother in the face, knocked her glasses off.”
Introducing parental abuse: 1 point
In this case, one of the main points of contention will focus on Mr. Spacey’s residence at the time of the allegations.
Rapp claims it was an apartment with a separate bedroom; Spacey says it was a studio, one room, without dividing walls.
And, as a damning counter to Saghirs earlier reference to Spacey’s apartment layout, Keller tells the jury that packrat Spacey held onto the lease—which proves it was a studio.
Invalidation of plaintiff claim: 1 point
Keller continues to tear down each of Saghir’s assertions, one by one.
She tells the jury that Rapp’s adult friend, John Barrowman, was more focused on Spacey than his old school chum and suggests it makes the juvenile Rapp angry at being a third-wheel.
She returns to the apartment issue again, speculating why Rapp would make up the bedroom story. Keller adds, “being surprised that all the guests had left only makes sense if there is a separate room.”
But she doesn’t stop there. She includes a recording of Rapp’s deposition in which he discusses the windows/ doors is priceless, further invalidating his own assertion.
She’s not telling the jury what he said; she’s letting Mr. Rapp speak for himself.
Folks, there’s little that’s more damning than a plaintiff’s own words being used against them.
Two points to Ms. Keller.
Referencing Mr. Rapp’s sworn testimony, she tells the jury that he describes Mr. Spacey “as having been a dead weight.”
Remember when Mr. Saghir said Mr. Spacey was grinding his pelvis into the 14-year-old actor?
Dead weights don’t grind.
Keller skillfully continues with an exposition of Rapp’s growing resentment toward Spacey’s rising star and his refusal to be an “out” gay celebrity.
She reminds the jury midway through that Rapp’s story is “not a true story, but he did tell it a lot.” She gets another half-point for directly telling the jury her defense position, which is simple and easy to understand.
Next up, however, things get good. I’ll let Ms.Keller speak for herself.
“Mr. Rapp blames everything on Mr. Spacey – that he cheated on his boyfriend, and that he cannot assert himself in sexual relationship. We’ll show you different. He forgets his lines? It’s Mr. Spacey.”
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.
Entering into the court record, through opening statements that Mr. Rapp “cannot assert himself in a sexual relationship,” is bold.
Whether you like her or loathe her, Jennifer Keller is fierce. And she’s not done yet.
She calls out Rapp for his unwillingness to talk about other traumatic allegations he’s made. Like claiming Yul Brenner “punched” the 10-year-Rapp backstage during a performance.
She addresses the #MeToo movement’s need for an instant apology and its impact surrounding Spacey’s apology Tweet.
But she arguably saves the best point for last by informing the jury that Mr. Rapp “didn’t go to the New York Times. He didn’t even go to the New York Post” while looking for an outlet for his allegations.
I’m gonna pull a sidebar here, folks.
I worked as an independent journalist in 2017, and editors at every publication were frantically putting calls out for stories and scoops. Reporters opened up their direct messages on social media to encourage anyone who wanted to come forward to do so. Getting an allegation published in a major publication at that time was not hard. Every reporter wanted to be the next Ronan Farrow, and every publication wanted to be the New Yorker.
Now back to Ms. Keller.
“This so-called independent journalist was a personal friend of Mr. Rapp. They plotted together to nail Mr. Spacey.”
She adds a delicious tidbit concerning Rapp’s memoir.
“It was supposedly about “Rent” – but it was about him. And it didn’t have this story on it, even [anonymously].”
And just before returning to her chair, she pitches this gem, “Mr. Rapp had a lot of therapy. He had one therapist for twenty years – twenty years. Never mentioned Mr. Spacey.”
Day one definitely goes to the defendant.
And as for those who are criticizing Jennifer Keller as being too aggressive, shame on you for perpetuating the stereotype that women must be “nice.” She’s been charged with defending her client, and today, folks, she did one helluva job.
Kevin Spacey Trial: Day 1 Update | Spacey 1; Rapp 0
So far, with Day 2 of the Kevin Spacey trial underway, it could be tight.
Day 2 might go to the plaintiff. They’ve started strong in efforts to mitigate the damage Keller inflicted yesterday. But the day’s not over, and I’m not ready to call it just yet.
And a tip of the hat to Matthew Russell Lee, who is providing invaluable raw, unbiased information for everyone to read and analyze. Follow him on Twitter @innercitypress