Entertainment

Former busboy who alleged actor Kevin Spacey groped him drops civil lawsuit

A young man who said Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket, Mass., bar in 2016 has dropped his civil lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor, who still faces criminal charges of indecent assault and battery over the alleged encounter.

Award-winning actor still faces criminal charges of indecent assault and battery

A man who has accused actor Kevin Spacey of sexual assault has dropped a civil lawsuit against him. Spacey still faces criminal charges. (Joel Ryan/Invision/Associated Press)

A young man who said Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket bar in 2016 has dropped his lawsuit against the Oscar-winning actor.

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the man, announced in an email Friday that the suit filed June 26 in Nantucket Superior Court has been voluntarily dismissed. No reason was provided either by Garabedian or in the court filing. Garabedian said he would have no further comment.

Spacey still faces a criminal charge, related to the allegations by the man, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident. He has pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and battery in January.

An email was left Friday requesting comment from Alan Jackson, Spacey's lawyer. A telephone message was also left at his office.

Suit can't be refiled

Jackson has previously said the man was lying in the hopes of winning money in a civil case against Spacey.

According to the court filing, the suit was dismissed "with prejudice," which means it cannot be refiled.

It says "because no adverse party has served an answer or motion for summary judgment in this matter, plaintiff is dismissing the civil action."

The legal development could have significance for the criminal case against Spacey, said William Korman, a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County District Attorney's office who is now a criminal defence lawyer specializing in sexual assault cases. 

When a civil suit is dropped so quickly, it's a possible indicator that a private settlement was reached and that the accuser may ultimately stop co-operating with prosecutors, he said.

"Any settlement could not be conditioned on a refusal to co-operate with the prosecution," said Korman. "Nevertheless, money is a great motivator for an individual not to follow through."

It's also possible prosecutors, upset with the timing of the civil suit, specifically asked the accuser to drop it, said David Yannetti, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defence lawyer in Boston. The civil suit was filed months into the ongoing criminal case, but such suits are typically filed after a criminal case is decided, he said.

"Maybe the prosecution said it's either about money or it's about a crime, but it can't be about both, and you have to make a decision on where you want to go with this," Yannetti said. 

The civil suit was likely filed before completion of the criminal case because the three-year statute of limitations is approaching, Yannetti added. 

"We're operating with very little info, but it's clear something unusual is going on here," he said. "Either the prosecution got involved or there was some sort of civil settlement."

Criminal case will go forward

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office declined to comment on whether prosecutors had any role in the withdrawal of the civil suit or whether a settlement has been reached. 

"The criminal case is independent from the civil case and will go forward," Tara Miltimore, assistant district attorney, said in an email. 

Garabedian's client, the son of Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh, alleged Spacey got him drunk and sexually assaulted him at the Club Car restaurant where the then 18-year-old worked.

The criminal case has centred on the cellphone used by the 18-year-old the night of the alleged groping. The defence has said it needs to recover text messages to support Spacey's innocence.

Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett has ordered the man to hand the phone over to the defence, but his lawyer said they cannot find it. The judge has given them until Monday to produce the phone.