On January 7th, Actor Kevin Spacey will be arraigned on Indecent Assault and Battery charges out of Nantucket District Court. Spacey’s lawyers requests that his presence be waived for the arraignment due to publicity from the case. Spacey is charged with sexual assault of a teenager in a Nantucket bar.
Lawyers argued that Spacey’s appearance would increase the publicity from he case and potentially contaminated the jury pool.
Definition of an Arraignment in Massachusetts Felony Charge
What is an arraignment when someone is charged with indecent assault and battery? An arraignment is when a defendant is formally notified of the charges in the case. At the arraignment, the prosecutor can requests a cash bail or conditions of release, such as the defendant surrender his passport, refrain from contacting individuals designated by the court, typically the victim in the case. Since the arraignment is an important procedural point in the case, it is not surprising that the judge denied the request to waive Spacey’s appearance. Since Spacey has not record, has appeared in court, I would not expect the court to impose a cash bail, but the judge could impose conditions of release. Given the long passage of time between the allegation and the arraignment, I would expect Spacey to be released without any conditions. Spacey next court date will be for a pretrial hearing; I would expect the court to waive his appearance at the first pretrial as this is likely to be basically an exchange of information between lawyers.
What we know about the possible evidence?
Spacey is charged with groping the then 18 year old son of former WCVB anchor Heather Unruh in a Nantucket restaurant in 2016 according to a report in the Boston Herald. According to an article in the Boston Herald the key fact in the case is that Spacey alleged had his hands in the young man’s pants for three minutes without any objection. The victim was over 18 at the time so he was over the age of consent. Wendy Murphy writing for the Boston Herald correctly states that even if there is no objection that consent is not necessarily proven, but that the fact makes the case extremely difficult for the prosecution. The victim was alleged to have been drinking and froze up when Spacey made the advance. Spacey has not been charged with a similar incident but appears to have engaged in similar behavior before according to the USA Today article. The prosecutor will certainty attempt to get these acts into evidence as what is known as prior bad act evidence. Prior bad act evidence does not come in to prove that a person committed the act charged, but to show lack of mistake, a plan or common scheme. This fine distinction would be difficult for a jury to keep separate and would be extremely prejudicial. A judge should not allow prior bad act evidence to be heard by the jury if it is too similar to the conduct the defendant is on trial for as it can deprive the defendant of his right to a fair trial.
Spacey appears to be a strong defense to the case and given that a criminal charge has to be proven to the highest degree of certainty to meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, I think he stands a strong chance of being found not guilty when this case goes to trial. If you would like to discuss any criminal trials in Massachusetts, feel free to contact Attorney DelSignore on his Facebook page at DelSignore Law or by phone at 781-686-5294.