The real-life Hollywood courtroom drama unfolding on Nantucket.
Last Christmas Eve, Kevin Spacey posted a bizarre video of himself to Twitter. It had been more than a year since anyone had heard a peep from the disgraced Academy Award-winning actor. His last statement came in October 2017 when he tweeted an apology to actor Anthony Rapp who accused him of sexual assault when Rapp was just fourteen years old. Thirty other accusers had come forward, including the teenage son of longtime Nantucket summer resident and former Boston news anchor Heather Unruh. Her son reported to the island police that the actor had forcibly groped him while he was a busboy at The Club Car on Nantucket in 2016.
In his video, Spacey addresses the camera in the voice of his House of Cards character Frank Underwood. “Some … have just been waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all,” he says. “But you wouldn’t believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn’t rush to judgment without facts, would you? Did you?” The video received 8 million views. Hours later, formal charges were filed against the actor by the Cape and Islands District Attorney for the alleged assault on Unruh’s son. As outrage grew over Spacey’s video, the stage was set for a Hollywood courtroom drama to begin in the most unlikely of places.
On a gray January morning, news helicopters dotted the sky above Nantucket. Television trucks lined the streets, transmitting to outlets around the world. At nine o’clock, a blacked-out SUV pulled up to the Nantucket District Court and was immediately swarmed by cameramen. Spacey emerged, passing through the crowd with a faint smirk on his face. He shuffled into the packed courtroom where the arraignment was brief. Through his lawyers, Spacey pled not guilty to charges of felony indecent assault and battery.
His legal team is manned by one of the most powerful attorneys in Los Angeles. Alan Jackson’s resume of cases reads like a season of Law and Order. In recent years, he’s gotten high-profile clients off of charges for hit-and-run DUIs, sexual assault, child molestation, domestic violence and at least two murders. In 2013 Jackson successfully defended the son of a Middle Eastern sheikh charged with assault, kidnapping and torture. He successfully defended an NBA star facing domestic violence allegations levied against him by a Playboy playmate and got a 23-year-old acquitted of murder charges after the young man stabbed his brother to death. Jackson’s most famous case, however, was as lead prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in convicting musician Phil Spector for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2009. Next on his docket: Kevin Spacey.
As Jackson filed Spacey’s not guilty plea across from Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Michael Giardino, a David vs. Goliath court case commenced. Jackson succeeded in having the cell phone records of the accuser and his girlfriend preserved from the date of the alleged assault all the way up to the present. The defense argued that the cell phone data—specifically text messages and Snapchats sent between the accuser and his girlfriend—would prove Spacey and the accuser had a flirtatious, consensual exchange.
Moreover, the defense called into question the accuser’s potential financial motivation and filed a motion to see the family’s correspondences with their civil attorney, Mitch Garabedian. If “evidence shows that the accuser’s family intends to pursue civil remedies against [Spacey],” Jackson argued in a motion, it “supports the defense’s position that the complaining witness in this case has a substantial financial motivation to falsify his claims.” Interview requests to the accuser’s family were politely declined in light of the case being ongoing.
Shocking claims made by one of Spacey’s family members add another dimension to the case. Shortly after the actor posted his bizarre video on Twitter, his long-estranged older brother, Randy Fowler, emerged in the press with frightening details about their father. Condemning the behavior of his younger brother, Fowler described how their father was a Neo-Nazi who serially raped him throughout his childhood. When Fowler moved out of the home, he says Spacey was left defenseless to his father’s wrath. The grim stories were captured in Fowler’s autobiography, which he released at the end of last year. “All my life I thought I had protected Kevin from my father and it turns out it’s all for nothing because he’s worse than my father,” Fowler said in an interview.
Spacey had quietly been coming to Nantucket during the summer months for more than a decade. While there have been no additional allegations levied against the actor by anyone else on the island, other stories of his questionable behavior on Nantucket do exist. To date, those stories remain unconfirmed, but as the court case continues to play out, new details of Spacey’s time on the island are likely to emerge. The actor has remained silent since the case began, leaving the closing words of his Christmas Eve video echoing out eerily: “I feel surprisingly good … My confidence grows each day that soon you will know the truth.”