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Wednesday November 25th, 2020 6:47AM

Kevin Spacey's lawyers enter not guilty plea in sex assault

By The Associated Press
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NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — Lawyers for Kevin Spacey entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in Massachusetts court Monday on charges he groped an 18-year-old busboy in 2016.

Spacey was arraigned on a charge of felony indecent assault and battery during a hearing at Nantucket District Court. The judge set another hearing for March 4. Spacey does not have to appear, the judge ruled, but said he needs to be available by phone.

Spacey must stay away from his accuser and his accuser's family, the judge also ordered.

The judge granted a request by Spacey's lawyers to preserve text messages and other data on the cellphones of the victim and his then-girlfriend on the day of the alleged assault and six months after. Spacey's attorney Alan Jackson told the judge they believe the cellphones contain information that is "likely exculpatory" for Spacey.

Spacey and his lawyers declined to comment as they left the courthouse amid a crush of reporters. Spacey, wearing a grey suit, navy vest and polka dot tie, didn't speak during the hearing.

The hearing comes more than a year after a former Boston TV anchor accused the former "House of Cards" star of sexually assaulting her son, then 18, in the crowded bar at the Club Car, where the teen worked as a busboy.

Spacey's lawyers have tried to poke holes in the case, noting that the teenager didn't immediately report the allegations and that authorities have no witnesses to the actual groping. In court documents, Spacey's lawyers write that the young man lied about his age, "welcomed drinks" bought by Spacey, left the bar with him to smoke a cigarette and gave Spacey his phone number.

"At best, this describes two people engaged in mutual and consensual flirtation, nothing more," his attorneys wrote.

If convicted, Spacey faces as many as five years in prison.

The civil attorney for the accuser said in a statement ahead of the hearing that his client is "leading by example."

"By reporting the sexual assault, my client is a determined and encouraging voice for those victims not yet ready to report being sexually assaulted," said lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of clergy sexual abuse victims.

Garabedian is not a part of the criminal case against Spacey.

Media trucks lined the street before dawn, and locals on the island, which teems with tourists in the summer but quiets down in the winter, drove by slowly to take photos of reporters standing in line in the cold.

When the doors opened, more than two dozen journalists packed the courtroom hours before Spacey was scheduled to appear.

It's the first criminal case brought against Spacey, 59, since other allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him in 2017.

A judge denied Spacey's bid to avoid appearing in person Monday. Spacey had argued his presence would "amplify the negative publicity already generated" by the case.

Television anchor Heather Unruh told reporters in November 2017 that Spacey got her son drunk and then grabbed his genitals during the incident. She said her son fled the restaurant when Spacey went to the bathroom.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people alleging sexual assault.

After the charge was announced last month, Spacey released a video in the voice of Frank Underwood, his character on Netflix's "House of Cards," in which he said, "I'm certainly not going to pay the price for the thing I didn't do." It was unclear whether he was referring to the charge.

Spacey has also faced other allegations.

His first accuser, actor Anthony Rapp, said Spacey climbed on top of him on a bed when Rapp was 14 and Spacey 26. Spacey said he did not remember such an encounter but apologized if the allegations were true.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Spacey's lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf instead of Spacey not entering a plea.

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