Actor Kevin Spacey recently underwent trial in London on charges of sexual assault. Four men said he had assaulted them between 2001 and 2013. He was acquitted of all charges.
Suppose Mr. Spacey and his accusers had spent time together, not in London, but in Washington State, where the Marshall Defense Firm is based. What legal troubles could have come his way?
One of the charges in London was causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. In Washington, that would be a charge of Rape in the Third Degree. Washington calls all forms of sexual penetration “sexual intercourse.” Washington has three forms of criminal sexual intercourse that do not involve children; Rape in the Third Degree—sexual intercourse without consent—is the least serious form.
Washington also considers both contact between the mouth and the genitals and contact between the mouth and the anus to be sexual intercourse. That would have permitted a criminal rape charge against Mr. Spacey for the allegation that a man in London had a drink at Mr. Spacey’s home there, fell asleep, and awoke to find Mr. Spacey performing oral sex on him.
Another complainant in London said Mr. Spacey grabbed his genitals as the man was driving and did so with such force that the man almost veered off the road. In Washington, that complaint would have supported a charge of Assault in the Fourth Degree, the lowest degree of assault. An aggressive prosecutor could also have charged it as Assault in the Second Degree because one way to commit that crime is by committing any assault “with intent to commit a felony.” RCW 9A.36.021. Here, the allegation could be that the genitals were grabbed with intent to commit Indecent Liberties; that crime is defined in RCW 9A.44.100 as causing sexual contact by forcible compulsion. Of course, the grabbing and sexual contact were alleged to be simultaneous, so it might seem strange to say that the grabbing was “with intent” to cause sexual contact, but the law allows charging intent in that way.
Last year, Mr. Spacey won another sexual assault case. In that one, a civil suit for damages, another actor, Anthony Rapp, said Mr. Spacey picked him up, put him on a bed, and climbed on top of him, with Mr. Spacey’s groin pressing into the side of his hip. Under Washington criminal law, that allegation would have supported a charge of Child Molestation in the Third Degree. Washington defines “child molestation” as a touching of the sexual or intimate parts (such as a child’s groin) for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire. While Mr. Rapp apparently asserted that he did not consent to what he says Mr. Spacey did, under Washington criminal law consent would be irrelevant; persons younger than 16 are deemed not to have the capacity to consent to sexual activity.
Washington law would also allow a civil suit for damages such as the one Mr. Rapp brought, even though the case went to trial 36 years after the alleged event. Like many states, Washington’s statutes of limitation for both criminal and civil actions alleging child sex abuse are quite liberal to complainants. A civil case is brought soon enough if it is filed within three years of the time the complainant realizes their psychological injuries are the result of the abuse, no matter how long ago the abuse is said to have happened.
In the civil cases that come our way at the Marshall Defense Firm, the complainant has sometimes sought psychotherapy and been diagnosed with “post-traumatic stress disorder secondary to childhood sex abuse.” That gives the complainant a strong argument that they didn’t know how the abuse had injured them until they got that diagnosis—so the three-year clock starts running only on that day.
Patrick Gibbs, Mr. Spacey’s barrister in the London trial, said Mr. Spacey was an “easy target” for false accusations because he was promiscuous. An attorney defending Mr. Spacey in Washington could make that argument, too.
We’re not aware that Mr. Spacey spends much time in Washington, so Washington law may not matter much to him. But if you or a loved one has been accused of sexual misconduct in Washington, it matters to you. At the Marshall Defense Firm, we’d be glad to meet with you and apply to your case our expertise, gained over decades of experience and study of law, medicine, and psychology. It could lighten your load a lot to turn your problem over to us.
Call us at 206.826.1400 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.