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Kevin Spacey Trial Opens As Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson, & Paul Haggis’ Sex Crimes Cases Head To Court

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(2:10 PM PT, updated with Spacey trial opening statements & new Haggis trial start date) Opening statements have begun in Kevin Spacey’s trial over sex abuse claims by Star Trek Discovery’s Anthony Rapp. The proceedings in a New York federal courtroom come as Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson and Paul Haggis all face sex crimes trials of their own starting over the next week or so.

After an extremely brisk jury selection this morning in District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s Manhattan courtroom, Keller Anderle lawyers for Spacey, and Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigma attorneys for Rapp will present the starting salvos of their case to the six men and six women chosen to serve. First filed by Rapp in 2020 over claims he made public in October 2017, the $40 million civil case alleges that back in 1986 Spacey fondled and trapped the then 14-year-old on the defendant’s bed without his consent at a theatre party. Quickly pink-slipped from his starring role in Netflix’s acclaimed House of Cards when further sexual misconduct allegations emerged on the political thriller, Oscar winner Spacey denied Rapp’s claims and clumsily used the occasion to reveal he was gay in what was widely seen as a failed attempt at distraction.

The trial is centered on Rapp’s claims of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Already facing a sexual assault trial in the UK set for June 2023, and under duress to pay up $31 million awarded to HoC producers MRC back in late 2020 because his behavior constituted a material breach of his acting and executive producing agreements, Spacey is expected to testify in his own defense in the NYC trial.

Rapp will also likely take the stand.

(Opening statements: Remarkably the opening statements Thursdays presented not just two different perspectives on what occurred in Spacey’s NYC apartment over 35 years ago, but basically two different realities.

For Rapp’s attorney Peter Saghir, the matter was pretty cut and dry. “What happened to Anthony is something that never should have happened,” the lawyer told the judge and jury. “The conduct here involved a 14-year-old boy and a 26-year-old man,” Saghir added, showing a photo of Rapp back in 1986 to emphasis how young the actor looked and was. After detailing the incident and drawing from an earlier deposition of Rapp’s, Saghir exclaimed that as his client tried to get out of Spacey’s pad, the old actor leaned over the doorway and asked, “are you sure you want to go?”

On the other side of the courtroom, as Spacey himself looked on, the American Beauty actor’s attorney Jennifer Keller derided Rapp as jealous, untruthful and unreliable. “He never became the international star that Kevin Spacey did,” Keller said, outlining her position that the incident was not only made up but parts of it were lifted from Precious Sons, the Broadway production he was featured in back in 1986. “He has been simmering and simmering with resentment all this time,” the attorney said of Rapp, mockingly claiming he peaked in 2000 when the actor stared in Rent. Keller also went after Rapp for allegedly spreading the story about Spacy for years but never going to the authorities or mentioning it publicly. The attorney additionally went on to claim that the apartment Spacey lived in where the alleged misconduct occurred was so small that Rapp’s depiction of events could not have happened.

“This is a case of objective facts refuting the tale that Mr. Rapp tells,” Keller told the jurors in a trial that looks like it could be wrapped up in a week at this pace.)

Also now facing sexual assault claims in Europe, Crash director Haggis was set to start a trial of his own in New York City on October 11. Film publicist Haleigh Breest claimed in 2017 that Haggis assaulted her in 2013 after the two attended the premiere of the film Side Effects. After various efforts by Haggis to have the matter tossed out, NYC judge ruled in mid-2018 that the case could proceed, but the Covid-19 pandemic saw the matter put on hold until next week.

The trial start date has now been pushed slightly to October 17, after a series of motions from Haggis’ side were denied at a pre-trial hearing today.

Taking place not far from the federal courthouse where Spacey’s trial is, the much-delayed proceeding for fellow Oscar winner Haggis will be based in Judge Sabrina Kraus’ courtroom in the Manhattan Civil Courthouse. Out of house arrest in Italy for the alleged repeated sexual abuse of an unnamed woman he supposedly met in April at the Monte Carlo Film Festival, Haggis has always insisted that the interaction with Breest was consensual. The former Scientologist has also floated the idea that the accusations are part of a harassment campaign by his ex-Church. Judge Krause has agreed to let Haggis and his lawyers develop their notion in the trial.

Over on the West Coast, the Weinstein and Masterson trials will be before separate juries in downtown L.A. at separate ends of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center’s ninth floor next week.

Stewing behind bars for over a year since being extradited from a state prison outside Buffalo in the summer of 2021, the already East Coast convicted Pulp Fiction producer is up against grand jury indictments of four counts of rape, four counts of forcible oral copulation, one count of sexual penetration by use of force, plus one count of sexual battery by restraint and sexual battery in incidents involving five women in L.A. County over a nine-year period. Sentenced to 23-years in prison by a Manhattan jury in March 2020 for multiple sex crimes, Weinstein faces 140 years imprisonment if found guilty in the L.A. trial – which is literally starting close to the fifth anniversary of the New York Times exposé on Weinstein that is widely credited with beginning the #MeToo movement.

However, this being the real world and not Law & Order, jury selection in the Weinstein L.A. trial is sure to be contentious. Sources among both the defense and prosecutors anticipate it could take well over a week before a jury acceptable to both sides is seated in Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench’s courtroom.

Having failed over and over to get the West Coast case dismissed or halted, the 70-year-old Weinstein has seen a ray of hope emerge back in New York in recent months. In August, Janet DiFiore, the chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, granted Weinstein the right to appeal his New York case. Oral arguments on whether the producer received a fair trial in 2020 will commence in early 2023, the judge said.  There is, in fact, a slim chance that Weinstein could be released from his East Coast sentence while the NYC appeal moves forward and matters in L.A. continue.

Unlike the Weinstein case, Masterson’s DTLA October 11 starting trial will more than likely seat a jury relatively expediently.

Still, in a process that could run close to Christmas, the former That ‘70s’ Show star’s trial could have consequences far outside the courtroom.

Masterson, a longtime Scientologist, was arrested in June 2020 on three counts of forcible rape that allegedly occurred in 2001 and 2003 at his Hollywood Hills home. Out on $3.3 million bail, the Tom Mesereau-defended Masterson is looking at a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison if found guilty. Masterson, who was subsequently dropped from Netflix’s Ashton Kutcher co-starring comedy The Ranch at the end of 2017 as claims became known, has always denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone.

In many ways the Church of Scientology is an unnamed co-defendant in the Masterson case.

The David Miscavige-led organization was unsuccessful earlier this week in having the Supreme Court wade into the group’s desire to stop several former members of the church and alleged Masterson victims from taking them to court on claims of surveillance, harassment and the killing of pets. The now revived lawsuit from four women who have claimed they were targeted by Scientology after going to the LAPD with their claims against the actor is on hold pending Masterson’s criminal case. Yet, with the behind closed doors “religious arbitration” effort shot down by SCOTUS, and former Scientologists among the victims in Masterson’s trial, the methods and potential complicity of the celebrity rich Church will now be under the judicial and media spotlight almost as much as the actor himself.

Whatever the outcomes of the respective Spacey, Haggis, Weinstein, and Masterson cases, this will not end with these trials. Regardless of the verdicts, expect appeals, a lot of them.



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