Today, prosecutors in Nantucket formally dropped criminal charges against actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey had been charged with felony indecent assault and battery stemming from allegations that he had inappropriately groped an 18-year-old man at a Restaurant in 2017. The young man had filed a civil suit against Spacey last month, which was then promptly dropped. There had been accusations that the accuser had deleted text messages that Spacey’s attorneys say may have demonstrated the actor’s innocence. The prosecutor’s office gave the “unavailability of the complaining witness” as the reason they decided to drop charges. The accusers apparent change of heart regarding cooperation could mean several things, but coupled with the allegations of deleted text messages that may have exonerated Spacey, it’s possible that he didn’t want to subject himself to cross examination, or getting caught in a false statement. Did the accuser’s attorney inform the prosecutors that the accuser would not be available to testify, or did he just dodge them…
There have been other accusations against Spacey, which has resulted in his ostracization in Hollywood amidst the “Me too” movement. There have been criminal investigations in California and England, but no other criminal charges. This case was problematic from the get-go, as I’ve discussed before, as the accuser apparently lied about his age and was allegedly flirting with Spacey. I’d try to say something funny, but this guy has already gotten the last word…
I wrote yesterday how the Spacey defense team, led by attorney Alan Jackson, filed what initially appeared to be a rather unimpressive motion to preserve evidence. But, I soon realized that the reason the motion was filed was more about putting the defense theory on record: making their argument in formal court documents which then filtered to the press. Not only that, the arguments were made without having to give any statements, much less any sworn testimony, and it has already served to rebut the charges and spread doubt about the allegations, which already appears to have landed an impact with some of the year-round Nantucket residents that will constitute the potential jury pool.
The screencapture on the left is from the front page of CNN.com, which shows that the motion made pretty big news, and it stayed on the front page much of the next day. It also got a headline on The Drudge Report that indicated that Spacey claims the victim “lied about his age” and was flirting, which linked to the story on the NY Daily News. That’s some effective lawyering. The ongoing challenge for the defense team will to be to discourage the management team from releasing videos that fail to further the defense narrative the defense is building.
Actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with a felony count of indecent assault and battery in Nantucket, Massachusetts. He is accused of groping a then-18-year-old bus boy at a restaurant where the young man worked in 2016. Spacey has been accused of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, but this is the only one that has yet resulted in criminal charges. The charges were only filed after publicity, including press conferences by the alleged victim and his mother, who is a former news anchor on Boston TV. The case is a problematic one, as the accuser lied about his age, returned to accept several drinks Spacey bought him, and even traded phone numbers with Spacey before the alleged unwanted advance. Prosecutors will have a very difficult time proving the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, a point that has been well explained elsewhere.
I write today to discuss an action that Spacey’s defense lawyers took this week that I think is clever. They filed a motion to ask the court to order preservation of records, specifically texts and other digital correspondence from the accuser in the case. Initially, I was surprised because a motion to preserve doesn’t have much effect on a criminal case: the government is bound to not only preserve evidence, but to turn it over to the defense in the discovery process. They even have to turn over evidence that is helpful to the defense, known as Brady material. So why would they bother filing such a motion.
Then, reading about the motion on CNN.com, it occurred to me that the thrust of the article was about the defense argument being put forth by the defense attorneys. The article lays out the arguments of the defense, then the State, and circles back around to reiterate the ‘highlights’ of the Defense motion. While the motion claims its primary purpose is to preserve the evidence, the real purpose of the motion was twofold: to rebut the filings of the State and start sharing facts positive to the defense in a public forum, and also to shift the discussion away from Spacey’s arraignment. The arraignment dominated the news cycle, but the most recent story, at least at CNN.com, counters the allegations and makes a cogent defense argument to the general public. A clever gambit by a defense team that is helping their client in the public forum as well as the legal forum.