Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey was acquitted on Wednesday in Britain of nine alleged sex offences, in the latest court victory for the Oscar winner who was one of the first huge stars felled by the #MeToo movement.
The star of “American Beauty” and drama series “House of Cards”, who turned 64 on Wednesday, was acquitted by majority verdicts in London following a trial lasting several weeks.
“I’m enormously grateful to the jury for having taken the time to examine all of the evidence and all of the facts carefully before they reached their decision and I am humbled by the outcome today,” he told reporters outside court.
It comes less than a year after a New York court dismissed a $40 million sexual misconduct civil lawsuit brought against him, and follows charges of indecent and sexual assault being dropped in Massachusetts in 2019.
Spacey’s once-stellar career has been halted by the various allegations of sexual offences, which first emerged in 2017 and which he has always denied.
The actor told Germany’s Die Zeit that he expected to mount a comeback following the acquittal.
“I know that there are people right now who are ready to hire me the moment I am cleared of these charges in London,” he told the German national weekly. “The second that happens, they’re ready to move forward.”
– ‘Madness’ –
The jury in London, which began considering the charges on Monday, cleared Spacey of all nine counts that he faced, after more than 12 hours of deliberations.
The alleged offences included seven counts of sexual assault, one count of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, and one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.
They were said to have occurred in 2005 and 2008 in London, and in 2013 in Gloucestershire, western England.
Jurors heard evidence from the four alleged victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons. British rock star Elton John was also among those to testify, as a witness for Spacey.
The prosecution claimed he was a “sexual bully” who revelled in making others feel uncomfortable, including by aggressively grabbing men’s crotches.
One of victims, a former aspiring actor, said he woke up to find Spacey performing a sex act on him, suggesting the actor “drugged” him.
He was accused of grabbing another man’s crotch “so hard” while driving to a fundraising event, that the car nearly came off the road.
Spacey, whose full name is Kevin Spacey Fowler, called the claims “madness” and a “stab in the back”.
He had been on unconditional bail since first being charged in Britain last year, and on Wednesday walked out of the south London court a free man.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it had charged him following “a thorough investigation” by London’s Metropolitan Police.
“It is the role of the jury to consider the charges and we respect the decision of the court,” a spokesman added.
– Career success –
Spacey enjoyed a highly successful decades-spanning career with roles such as a middle-aged father lusting after a teen in “American Beauty,” a serial killer in “Se7en” and the villain in “Superman Returns”.
He worked as artistic director at London’s Old Vic Theatre between 2004 and 2015.
In 2017 he was one of the first stars caught up in the global #MeToo movement as he was accused of sexual assault by multiple young men.
He was dropped from the final season of the political drama “House of Cards” and other projects.
A New York court dismissed a $40 million civil sexual misconduct lawsuit brought against him in October last year.
The complainant, actor Anthony Rapp, alleged the star had assaulted him when he was 14. He brought the civil case after being told it was too late to bring a criminal charge but failed to convince the jury in that case.
In 2019, charges of indecent and sexual assault were dropped against Spacey in Massachusetts.