Five years after the #MeToo movement first exploded, three famous, once-powerful men are on trial this week for their alleged sexual abuses.
Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Danny Masterson all stand accused of sexual misconduct. Weinstein and Masterson are both facing criminal sexual assault charges that could put them behind bars for life. Spacey, meanwhile, is facing a civil lawsuit from actor Anthony Rapp, who has said that Spacey made a sexual advance on him when Rapp was just 14 years old.
Weinstein has already been convicted in New York of sexual misconduct, and his case remains the most prominent conviction of the post-#MeToo era. (Bill Cosby, whose case was also heralded as an example of post-#MeToo accountability, was convicted but later released on a technicality.) Now, these three trials offer a new snapshot of how the justice system will deal with sexual assault allegations among the rich and famous.
Spacey’s New York City civil trial is farther along than the other men’s, which are still mired in jury selection. Spacey’s main accuser, Rapp, has already testified on the stand for multiple days.
“Every time I saw him on the screen, I was reminded, I could not escape that memory,” Rapp said, according to CNN.
Rapp first came forward in October 2017, as cries of #MeToo spread across social media. He told BuzzFeed News that, when he was 14 and Spacey was 26, Spacey climbed on top of him and made a sexual advance. Rapp, who is most known for his role in the founding cast of “Rent,” has said he went years without discussing his interaction with Spacey, but he felt increasingly overcome as Spacey’s star climbed. Even Spacey’s appearance in the 1980s movie Working Girl disturbed him.
Since Rapp came forward, Spacey has become persona non grata in Hollywood (except, occasionally, for some truly bizarre YouTube videos where he simultaneously seems to be comforting and threatening the viewer). Other men have also accused Spacey of sexual misconduct, including a man who said that he had a sexual relationship with an adult Spacey when the man was then just 14 years old. Spacey is also facing a criminal trial in London, where he’s been charged with four counts of sexual assault as well as one count of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.
Spacey has generally denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty in the London case.
In cross-examination Tuesday in New York, Spacey’s lawyers tricked to pick apart Rapp’s account, suggesting he was making it up out of jealousy for Spacey’s career. Rapp has previously said he was inspired to come forward after Lupita Nyong’o accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, but texts showed that Rapp was actually in communication with BuzzFeed News days before Nyong’o went public.
Rapp has said that Spacey made the advance in a bedroom after a party Spacey threw. But Spacey’s legal team contended that Spacey lived in a studio apartment at the time. Rapp insisted that he remembered a bedroom, but it’s possible he was wrong about the apartment layout, according to the New York Times.
Rapp sued Spacey for $40 million in damages for assault, battery, and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
Weinstein has already been convicted of third-degree rape and a criminal sexual act in the first degree in New York and now faces a jury in Los Angeles. Sentenced to 23 years in prison in the New York case, Weinstein, whose case kicked off a wave of accusations against other famous men, is now facing 11 counts of sexual assault in Los Angeles County. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life behind bars—although at 70 years old, Weinstein’s New York sentence will also likely last the rest of his life.
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by five different women in the L.A. trial. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, is one of those women; her attorney told the Los Angeles Times that she “was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein at a purported business meeting that turned out to be a trap.” Another of the women previously testified against Weinstein at his New York trial, although he was not directly on trial over her allegations.
Lawyers in the case are currently in the process of jury selection, which is supposed to last two weeks. But Weinstein’s team also took the time Tuesday to complain about the apparently “medieval” conditions of Weinstein’s cell.
“I’m concerned about his health and his ability to survive this ordeal,” one of his attorneys told Judge Lisa B. Lench, Variety reported.
Weinstein’s legal team also suggested that Weinstein didn’t have access to a toilet, which Lench immediately shot down.
“He’s not deprived of a toilet. There is a toilet in the cell,” Lench said. “I’m not going to let the record reflect that he’s deprived of a toilet. I’m not going to let the record look like he didn’t have access to a toilet.”
Weinstein has pleaded not guilty in the case and has broadly denied all sexual misconduct allegations. He is also appealing his New York case.
The criminal trial for Masterson, the former star of “The ‘70s Show,” has a wrinkle that the other ones don’t: Scientology.
Masterson, an active member of the church, stands accused of three charges of forcible rape against three women who, at the time of the alleged assaults, were also Scientologists, Variety reported. If Masterson is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
One woman has said that, after accepting a drink from Masterson, her vision turned “blurry” and Masterson raped her, according to People. She has said that family told her not to file a police report due to Masterson’s Scientology connections, although she ultimately did so in 2004.
Another woman said that, when Masterson commanded her to take her clothes off, she obeyed because of his stature in Scientology, according to the Associated Press. She said Masterson later raped her twice.
The third woman, who dated Masterson for years, said she once woke up to him raping her. She said that he also spit on her and hit her with his fist, calling her white trash.
All three alleged assaults are said to have taken place in the early 2000s. Masterson has pleaded not guilty.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo has tried to insist that “this is not going to become a trial on Scientology,” despite the trial’s links to the shadowy church, according to Variety. Olmedo has also predicted that the case will not take longer than four weeks.
Jury selection in the trial started Tuesday.