Spacey trial proceeds after his lawyer contracts COVID-19

Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at Federal court for his civil lawsuit trial, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in New York. Spacey is facing a jury in a New York City courtroom during a civil trial accusing him of sexually abusing a 14-year-old actor in the 1980s when he was 26. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (Mary Altaffer, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NEW YORK – The sex abuse trial of actor Kevin Spacey hit a snag Thursday when the judge announced one of Spacey's top lawyers had come down with COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told the jury that attorney Jennifer Keller was missing because she had tested positive for the virus Thursday morning after feeling symptoms Wednesday night. Kaplan, after putting precautions in place, decided to let the trial go forward.

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Facemasks are generally optional in the courthouse and Keller was not wearing one Wednesday when she questioned actor Anthony Rapp about his claim that Spacey made a sexual advance on him in 1986 when he was 14 years old. At the time, Spacey was 26. The “House of Cards” star, now 63, has denied Rapp’s accusation.

Rapp's lawyers were nearing the end of the presentation of their case against Spacey when Keller got sick.

On Thursday, members of Spacey's defense team, including Spacey, and members of the jury wore masks in the courtroom along with anyone else who had been in close proximity to Keller. When an aide to the judge offered coronavirus home test kits to anyone who wanted them, Spacey and others at the defense table raised their hands.

Testimony in the trial so far has focused on Rapp's claim that Spacey approached him after a party at his Manhattan apartment while Rapp was sitting on a bed watching television.

Rapp, now 50, testified that Spacey lifted him onto a bed and pressed his clothed body against Rapp's clothed body before Rapp squirmed out and ran into a bathroom before leaving the apartment.

Through his lawyers, Spacey has denied that the encounter ever happened, though he has not yet testified. He arrived later than usual at the courthouse Thursday.

Rapp is seeking $40 million in damages for what he describes as psychological harm.

Lisa Rocchio, a forensic psychologist who examined Rapp, testified Wednesday that he had experienced “a tremendous amount of shame, guilt and confusion” after his encounter with Spacey.

Her testimony resumed Thursday, when she told jurors that Rapp experienced delayed-onset post-traumatic stress syndrome that was triggered by reports that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had been accused of sexual abuse by numerous women.

Rocchio was asked how Rapp could have been traumatized if there was no sexual contact and he got away.

“The trauma is in the needing to flee” from a perceived threat, she said.

A lawyer for Spacey sought on cross-examination to suggest that Rapp could have been traumatized by other instances when he had unwanted or uncomfortable sexual encounters that Rocchio noted in her examination of him — not by the alleged abuse by Spacey.

The plaintiff lawyers are expected to rest their case when the trial resumes Monday, barring any more COVID-19 complications. It was unclear when Spacey might take the stand in his own defense.

The Associated Press does not usually name people alleging sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Rapp has done.