Sex assault charge dropped against actor Kevin Spacey
Spacey was charged in January with indecent assault and battery.
(ABC NEWS) — Prosecutors in Nantucket on Wednesday dropped a felony sexual assault charge against the actor Kevin Spacey, after watching their case against the actor slowly fall apart under scrutiny from Spacey’s defense team during months of contentious pre-trial hearings that unfolded in the resort island’s lone courtroom.
In January, authorities charged Spacey with a single felony count of indecent assault and battery.
But over the course of months of pre-trial hearings, it emerged that the mother of Spacey’s accuser had deleted potentially exculpatory data from her son’s cell phone before turning it over to police, and that the lead investigator in the case did not file a report stating the mother’s voluntary admission until just last month — in June, 2019 — more than three years after the alleged encounter.
When Spacey’s defense team learned of these developments last month, they sought from the judge in the case and were granted direct access to the accuser’s phone.
Defense attorneys, who compared the results of the state’s forensic examination of the phone with screenshots of the group chat conversation from that night that the accuser had initially texted to investigators, concluded that key parts of those conversations had been deleted before the phone was turned over to investigators.
A civil attorney for the accuser then informed the court that the phone had apparently been irretrievably lost — and even questioned whether police returned the device to the family at all after the government completed its forensic exam of the contents of the phone.
The accuser appeared in court earlier this month and took the witness stand. He testified he did not report the alleged assault to police for 15 months, in October, 2017, rather than the three months prosecutors had been contending since filing charges against the actor in January. The lead investigator in the case testified later that day under questioning from Spacey’s defense attorney that the one-year difference was the result of a “typo,” and a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office acknowledged the error in response to a question from ABC News.
He also testified that he had turned the phone back over to the accuser’s family a few weeks after obtaining it. But the accuser’s father went on to testify that he doesn’t recall ever receiving the device back, prompting the lead investigator to acknowledge that he was “remiss” and failed to get a signed receipt confirming the return of the phone.
But part of the way through the accuser’s July 8 testimony, during questioning from Spacey defense attorney Alan Jackson, a recess was called after the accuser was asked whether he was aware that it’s a crime to delete potentially exculpatory data from a piece of evidence in a criminal probe. He said on the stand that he had not been aware of that.
Then a recess was called — during which the accuser informed the judge through a representative that he had decided to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself against self-incrimination — and declined further testimony. That prompted Barrett to order the accuser’s testimony stricken from the record.
That led Jackson to demand of Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett that the case be dismissed on the spot. An assistant district attorney asked for a week to confer with his office, and the next hearing in the case was scheduled for July 31.
“This entire case is completely compromised” by the accuser’s decision to take the Fifth, Jackson told Barrett. “He’s the sole witness than can establish the circumstances of his allegation.”
Barrett declined to immediately dismiss the charge, after an assistant district attorney asked for a week to confer with his office, but acknowledged from the bench that “without [the accuser’s testimony], the Commonwealth will have a tough row to hoe,” adding that it remained unclear whether the case would “continue or collapse” without the testimony of the accuser himself.