The anonymous massage therapist who accused disgraced actor Kevin Spacey of sexual battery and assault has died ahead of the trial. And because Spacey’s attorneys almost immediately notified the court, the case could be dismissed, the late accuser’s attorney says.
A trial date in the case has yet to be scheduled.
A notice of his death was filed by Spacey’s attorneys Tuesday in U.S. Central District Court, according to documents obtained by The Times on Wednesday. It’s the latest development in Spacey’s civil case, which was originally filed about a year ago.
Tuesday’s filing said that on Sept. 11, the attorney for the massage therapist informed Spacey’s attorney that the therapist had “recently passed.” But no further information had been given to Spacey’s team. The masseur had been identified in the personal injury lawsuit only as John Doe.
“His untimely death was, to his family, a devastating shock that they are struggling to process and is so recent that they have not yet held his funeral service,” Doe’s attorney, Genie Harrison, said in a statement to The Times Wednesday, also confirming the plaintiff’s death.
But Harrison characterized the Tuesday filing by Spacey’s team as an “undignified, insensitive and inappropriate” move made in “an attempt to gain the advantage of a ticking clock.”
“Out of professional responsibility, we notified Spacey’s counsel of Mr. Doe’s passing. We explained our intent to allow his family more time to get past their immediate, paralyzing grief and begin settling his affairs before we filed a death notice with the court — which is our prerogative as his counsel,” Harrison said. “Spacey ignored our request for compassion and filed the notice yesterday without our consent.”
The attorney explained that there is no deadline for filing a party’s death notice, but that filing the notice will trigger a 90-day countdown that could potentially jeopardize the lawsuit.
“That means that unless the estate is substituted in the party’s place, the court may dismiss the case,” Harrison said. “Filing the notice yesterday was unnecessary and contemptible. I’m not surprised, however, that Spacey prematurely filed the notice in an attempt to gain the advantage of a ticking clock. Mr. Doe’s family must now open his estate at the same time as planning a funeral and processing their grief.”
Attorneys for Spacey did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.
The lawsuit was one of the handful of legal cases the Oscar-winning Spacey faced after he fell from grace during the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. The therapist had accused the actor of forcing him to touch his genitals during a treatment at Spacey’s Malibu home in October 2016.
It is unclear now if the case will proceed. If it does, any damages that might have been awarded in the case would flow through to heirs of the deceased.
In his complaint, Doe alleged that he suffered and continued to suffer physical injury, emotional pain and distress, among other issues, following the alleged incident. Spacey, in court documents, denied each and every allegation or characterization in the complaint, asking the court that Doe take nothing from the complaint and that a judgment be entered in Spacey’s favor instead.
In April, Spacey asked the court to either dismiss the lawsuit or order the plaintiff to identify himself. In May, a California federal judge moved to keep the plaintiff’s identity anonymous during that stage of the proceedings. Doe wanted to remain anonymous because he feared facing threats of and actual physical violence and economic injury if his identity were revealed. Another defendant in the case, Spacey’s production company, M. Profitt Productions, was dismissed from the case and an amended complaint had to be filed by the therapist’s legal team in June.
Doe alleged that during the 2016 treatment he instructed Spacey to lie face down under a massage sheet, but Spacey lay down facing up and later forced the therapist to twice touch the actor’s genitals. Spacey also allegedly attempted to forcibly kiss Doe and said something to the effect of having the actor perform oral sex on the therapist, according to Doe’s second amended complaint in the case. Doe reported the assaults to the Los Angeles Police Department, the complaint said.
In June, Doe was ordered to reveal his true and complete name to Spacey’s attorney, but would remain confidential in further proceedings.
He brought the case, which alleges sexual battery, battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gender violence, in Los Angeles Superior Court in September 2018, but it moved to federal court in January.
Earlier this month, a final pre-trial conference had been scheduled for May 2020.
“Mr. Doe was a dignified, kind, middle-aged man traumatized by Spacey’s alleged sexually depraved attack,” his attorney told The Times. " As a result of this case, other victims from around the world have reached out to our firm. Mr. Doe believed their harrowing stories, and in his final months he looked forward to standing up for all of them. His fight for justice is still very much alive.
“My firm grieves the loss of Mr. Doe, who was truly a wonderful client and human being. He brought light and love every time he visited our office, and we were lucky to know him.”