MANHATTAN (CN) — As actor Kevin Spacey stands trial over civil sexual assault claims, his attorney grilled Spacey’s accuser Tuesday about his memory of the alleged 1986 assault and the timeline of his decision to come forward.
Anthony Rapp, who played Mark in the original Broadway play and film “Rent,” testified that he was just 14 years old when Spacey assaulted him after a party at Spacey’s apartment. Though Rapp told friends about the encounter for years, the public learned about the allegations through a BuzzFeed article published in October 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement.
Rapp, 50, says that he decided to speak out after reading an op-ed in which Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o recounted being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. It was those experiences on display, Nyong’o wrote, that made it impossible for her to avoid confronting her own.
“I identified so strongly with that experience, of her being troubled and disturbed of his presence in her life and in the entertainment industry,” Rapp said from the witness stand.
That was also around the time Rapp had re-started therapy and was facing his own experience and addressing the long-term effects it had had on his life, the actor testified.
“She started to … lift the lid on it,” Rapp said of his therapist at the time. “I had thought about (Spacey's) part and what he had done, and not really so much what effect it had on me.”
Spacey’s attorney Jennifer Keller suggested during cross-examination that Rapp’s pinning of his decision to go public to Nyong'o’s piece, which he mentioned in a speech accepting a “Person of the Year” award from the LGBT magazine The Advocate, was self-serving.
“She’s a legitimate star who’s had kind of a meteoric rise,” Keller said of Nyong'o, whose film credits include “Black Panther” and “12 Years a Slave.” Keller asked Rapp if “that was something that you thought would be a better story.”
Keller, of Keller/Anderle in Irvine, Calif., pointed out that Rapp had contacted journalist Adam Vary, a friend of Rapp’s who wrote the BuzzFeed story, before Nyong'o published her op-ed. However, Rapp initially spoke with Vary off the record, and Vary’s piece came out more than a week after Nyong'o’s.
Rapp and Spacey met through the Broadway community when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Shortly after that, Rapp says, Spacey invited him to a party at his apartment where Rapp was the only kid. Bored and uncomfortable among all strangers except for Spacey, Rapp says he went to sit on Spacey’s bed and watch TV.
After the other guests had left, he said a visibly intoxicated Spacey approached Rapp, lifted him in the air — both Rapp and his attorney likened it to a groom carrying a bride over the threshold — then placed Rapp back on the bed and climbed on top of him, pressing his groin into Rapp’s hip. Spacey denies that the party ever occurred.
Rapp, who has been testifying with Spacey sitting at a table squarely in his line of vision, likened seeing the “House of Cards” actor enter the courthouse Tuesday morning to being “jolted with a cattle prod.”
“My hands are sweaty and my heart is racing,” Rapp testified. “All of that happened this morning."
Keller also probed Rapp’s memory of the alleged encounter. Rapp remembered a door to Spacey’s bedroom, but the apartment was an L-shaped studio. Rapp had not recalled going to Spacey’s apartment before the alleged assault, but a friend who was visiting him remembered the two going to the apartment to play with a brown Labrador.
Rapp acknowledged that it’s possible he was wrong about the bedroom, even though it’s still in his memory now.
“Are you saying that what you remember and what is true can be two different things?” Keller asked.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan took issue with Rapp’s response to some questions and admonished him at least six times for responding indirectly, telling Rapp to “try to be responsive to the question” and “not to add whatever comes through your mind.”
Last week another witness testified that Spacey had sexually abused him in the summer of 1981 in his office at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater. Spacey was in a production of "Henry IV, Part 1" at the time.
Andrew Holtzman said Spacey approached him and “sort of lifted me up by my crotch and pushed me back on my desk.” As Holtzman screamed at Spacey to get off him, Spacey pushed his groin against Holtzman’s before leaving the office in anger, Holtzman testified.
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