Today, Netflix released a House of Cards trailer featuring the headstone of President Frank Underwood, a direct result of Kevin Spacey’s character being killed off amid reports of sexual harassment that disgraced the two-time Oscar-winning actor. Coincidentally, the trailer came a day after Spacey was let off the hook criminally with the announcement that he will face no criminal charges in Los Angeles, and neither will Anthony Anderson nor Steven Seagal.
The latest news underscores the glaring dichotomy in the #MeToo movement. It is proving difficult to make criminal prosecutions stick against the alleged scoundrels whose careers were halted based on press articles that exposed appalling behavior. Those charges were based on testimony of alleged victims, buttressed by the word of two or more friends to whom the victim confided. That is an impossibly low bar for the burden of proof required to put them behind bars, as many of those cases are pure he-said she-said, with no physical evidence for acts perpetrated long ago, many times beyond statute of limitation laws.
While an expected onslaught of civil cases might fare better — O.J. Simpson lost his case after beating his murder rap — the net result on the criminal prosecution front is woeful. Consider that 10 months ago, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office announced it had formed a special task force to look into allegations of sexual assault in the entertainment industry. But the task force has yet to prosecute anyone, declining numerous cases due to a lack of evidence or the tolling of the statute of limitations.
No doubt, it’s been a frustrating exercise in futility for many of the accusers, who were emboldened by the #MeToo movement to come forward with their stories, and for the DA’s office, as well, which would like nothing more than to rack up some convictions if the allegations are true and can be proven.
These headlines tell the story that has exasperated the accusers, and relieved the accused:
- Kevin Spacey, Anthony Anderson & Steven Seagal Escape Sex Crimes Charges By L.A. D.A.
- Les Moonves Won’t Face L.A. D.A. Sex Crime Charges
- LA Prosecutor Declines To Prosecute Director James Toback
- Actor Ed Westwick Will Not Be Prosecuted Over Sexual Assault Allegations
- Los Angeles DA Declines To File Charges On Ex-APA Agent Tyler Grasham
- Scott Baio Assault Charges Declined By Prosecutors
- Los Angeles DA Won’t Prosecute Agent Who Allegedly Groped Terry Crews
“It’s too bad,” one of Seagal’s accusers said through a spokesperson, who noted that she “just wants to move on with her life.” Seagal has since left the country and has been living in Russia, where just last month Vladimir Putin tapped him as a “special representative” to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia.
Filmmaker Blaise Godby Lipman, a former child actor who was the first of many to accuse APA agent Tyler Grasham – he claimed Grasham sexually assaulted him when he was seeking representation 10 years ago – told Deadline that “The reality of the judicial system is there are specific and sometimes rigid criteria that needs to be met before charges can be processed in a criminal court. Many of these fall outside of the statute of limitations, or lack forensic evidence. Does the inability to bring criminal charges forward mean that these men are innocent? Absolutely not.”
He added: “The worst thing we can do right now is a read a simple headline and think, ‘Well, I guess nothing really happened after all.’ The complexity of our legal system and what goes into bringing charges forward tells a much more complicated story.”
The DA’s office didn’t prosecute Grasham, but he was fired and is now out of the business. At one point he was said to be living in Mexico.
Frustration with the legal system began even before the task force was formed – in 2016, when the DA’s office declined to file forcible rape charges against Bill Cosby, saying the statute of limitations had expired. He was later convicted in Pennsylvania on three counts of sexual assault. Two years ago, in the wake of the Cosby revelations, California ended its statute of limitations on prosecuting rape cases, but only for those crimes committed after January 1, 2017.
“It is true that no charges have been filed yet,” attorney Gloria Allred, who represents a Weinstein accuser, told Deadline. “There may be a number of reasons. First, any case they are considering filing may no longer be within the statute of limitations for the filing of a criminal case. Second, the alleged incident may not have taken place in Los Angeles. Third, they may not believe that they have evidence sufficient to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. Fourth, alleged victims may not be willing to testify in a criminal case. The prosecutor in New York has charged Mr. Weinstein in a superseding indictment. I represent the third alleged victim in that criminal case. I am glad that the New York case is moving forward. We will have to wait and see if charges are or are not filed in other jurisdictions as well, e.g., L.A., Beverly Hills, and London.”
As it turns out, it’s not easy to criminally prosecute old sex crimes, though victims may have an easier time finding justice in the civil courts, where the standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, instead of in the criminal courts, where cases must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And now that the DA’s office has declined to prosecute so many of the accused, their alleged victims may soon turn to filing civil lawsuits.
But perhaps the most lasting impact will be that the careers of many of the accused – with a few exceptions – are over, or soon will be, thanks to the many brave women and men who have spoken out, and to an awakened industry and a more vigilant press. In that sense, the industry and the American public have exacted their own revenge on the likes of Spacey, James Toback, Louis CK, Grasham, Charlie Rose, Weinstein, Seagal and Matt Lauer, whose show business careers are probably, if not definitely, over.
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the formation of the task force on November 9, 2017, just after exposés in the New York Times and New Yorker revealed decades of alleged sexual assault and harassment by Weinstein. “In response to the widespread allegations of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, I have established a task force of specially trained deputy district attorneys who are ready to evaluate these cases if any are referred to my office for criminal prosecution,” she said. “I have assigned the group of veteran sex crimes prosecutors to work together to ensure a uniformed approach to the legal review and possible prosecution of any case that meets both the legal and factual standards for criminal prosecution.”
So far, though, they’ve come up empty, and last month, after the New Yorker published allegations by six women accusing CBS president and CEO Les Moonves of sexual assault, the DA’s office acknowledged that in February it had declined to pursue allegations against him by another woman who accused him of assaulting her in the 1980s when he was an executive at Lorimar Television.
The unidentified woman, who said she encountered Moonves “through employment in the television industry,” claimed that he assaulted her on three different occasions. Those allegations, which were not pursued because the statute of limitations had expired, included oral copulation by force, indecent exposure and battery. Moonves has denied the allegations, and for the record, Deadline began pursing similar allegations against Moonves last November but could not obtain confirmation.
In April, the DA’s office declined to prosecute writer-director Toback on five allegations of sexual assault and abuse. Hundreds of other women also have accused him of sex crimes – many relating to the casting of his movies – but the DA has dismissed these five cases because they were either outside the one-year statute of limitations or, in one case, because the alleged victim did not appear at a scheduled interview. Toback has denied the allegations.
Last month, the DA’s office declined to prosecute actor Ed Westwick on four allegations of rape and sexual assault, for which the DA’s office said there was “insufficient evidence” to pursue. Westwick has vehemently denied the allegations.
In May, the DA’s office declined to file charges in four cases brought against Grasham amid allegations of sexual abuse of underage boys, including potential clients. Two of the four cases involving alleged victims aged 15 and 17 were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. A third victim, who claimed Grasham performed anal sex with him on two occasions in 2017 when he was intoxicated, was dismissed for lack of evidence. A fourth case has been referred to the LA D.A.’s office for misdemeanor consideration. Lipman, though he was the first to accuse the agent, did not file a police report.
The DA’s office also declined to file charges last month against actor Scott Baio, who was accused by Nicole Eggert, his former Charles In Charge co-star, of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s when she was a teenager. The case was not pursued because the statute of limitations had expired, and Baio denied any wrongdoing, saying they’d been involved in a consensual relationship when she was of legal age.
In March, the DA’s office declined to prosecute a claim by actor Terry Crews, who accused WME agent Adam Venit of groping him at a party in 2016, saying that “the matter was rejected because it was beyond the statute of limitations.”
The DA’s office said Tuesday that it will not prosecute Spacey on a case that was presented to the LA County Sheriff’s Department in April because the statute of limitations had expired. In that case, the events were reported to have taken place in October 1992 in West Hollywood involving an adult male. The DA’s office, however, is still reviewing a second allegation against the former House of Cards star.
The DA’s office also said Tuesday that it would not be prosecuting Black-ish star Anthony Anderson after “the reporting party has declined to be interviewed by the investigating officer.” Anderson, who has always strongly denied the claims, was accused of assaulting a woman after an event she catered for him.
Seagal also won’t be prosecuted after the DA’s office determined that the statute of limitations on the allegations against him had expired. The investigation came after numerous actresses came forward with allegations that he sexually harassed them — and a month after an extra told the LAPD that he raped her in 1993.
Regina Simmons, then an 18-year-old extra on his film On Deadly Ground, filed a police report last month saying Seagal raped her at a party at his house in 1993. And Dutch model Faviola Dadis has told the LAPD that Seagal sexually assaulted her during an audition in 2002.
Several actresses including Jenny McCarthy, Portia di Rossi, Eva LaRue and Juliana Margulies have come forward with allegations that Seagal sexually harassed them, though none claimed that he sexually assaulted them.
The DA’s office, meanwhile, is also reviewing a complaint filed last November by a woman who accused Sylvester Stallone of assaulting her in the 1990s – a charge the actor has vehemently denied.
The DA’s office says that sexual assault allegations against Weinstein and Stallone “remain under review,” as does a second allegation against Spacey. Weinstein currently faces charges of rape and predatory assault in New York.
“If you look at the Cosby case, 60 women came forward with stories of their rapes and druggings,” Lipman told Deadline. “In the end, how many cases were actually able to move forward? Only three. That speaks to the flaws in our criminal justice system, more than to the reality of those women’s stories.
“What we now know regarding sexual assaults and rape, is that very few women come forward in the immediate aftermath of an assault, out of shame because of how our misogynistic views of women paint them to be at fault. They stay closeted for fear of not being believed, fear of retribution both personal and professional, even more so in these situations that deal with men in power. So laws regarding statute of limitations have to evolve. The outpouring of reports this year are a result of the media and society’s shifting view on victimhood and survival. Yet, as we’re seeing today, many of these survivors’ traumas are being invalidated by a court of law because of outdated laws which haven’t caught up to what we now know about the psychology of trauma and rape survival.
“Does it sting? Of course. But at the end of the day the inability to proceed with criminal charges doesn’t affect the reality of what’s happened to women and men for ages. History and truth is on our side. For me, I never wished to press criminal charges against the person who assaulted me. My case wasn’t included in the criminal complaint, not that it could have been for statute of limitations laws. Regardless, my priority was making sure he wouldn’t be able to work with children in the same capacity. I accomplished that and as long as he remains out such a position, I’m happy.”
Lipman, a friend of Westwick accuser Kristina Cohen, said that “She courageously came forward against Ed Westwick, with absolutely nothing to gain – nothing financial, the worst kind of attention, an enormous amount of shaming, victim blaming and hatred from his fan base. These are the women who are changing the way we talk about survival. Was she in too much shock and confusion to go get a rape kit done immediately? Yes. Welcome to trauma. It’s chaotic and messy and confusing. And sometimes it take years to process before coming forward. Another alleged victim of Ed’s…didn’t feel emotionally equipped to move forward with a criminal lawsuit that would have brought her face to face with her attacker. There are so many situations like this, so many varied reasons why these cases don’t move forward.”