Opening statements have begun today 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 next week.
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 choose 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.
Danny Masterson Rape Accusers See Church Of Scientology's U.S. Supreme Court Petition Denied
Anticipated to last at least a couple of weeks, 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.
Anthony Rapp will also likely take the stand.
Also now facing sexual assault claims in Europe, Crash director Haggis is 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 up until next week.
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 women 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 incarcerated Weinstein and the out on bail Masterson will be before separate juries in downtown LA at separate ends of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center’s ninth floor next week.
Stewing behind bars for over a year since be 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 LA trial – which is literally starting close to the fifth anniversary of the New York Times expose 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 LA 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 much-accused 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 LA continue.
Unlike the Harvey Weinstein case, Danny 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 an $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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Kevin Spacey Trial Opens; Weinstein, Masterson & Haggis Cases In Court Next Week
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