An anonymous massage therapist who claims to have been sexually assaulted by Kevin Spacey has died, according to a notice filed in court by the actor's attorneys.
The individual, suing as a "John Doe," filed claims in September 2018 with the allegation of being forced to grab the actor's genitals twice during a massage two years earlier at a private residence in Malibu. In May, a federal judge in California allowed the case to move forward despite Spacey's objection that the plaintiff's identity was being shielded.
Now, just a month after the parties came to a plan for proceeding in the suit that detailed prospective discovery and envisioned a seven- to 11-day trial, the plaintiff's attorney has informed Spacey that the client "recently passed."
No further detail is provided, and a request to the plaintiff's attorney for more information has not been answered.
Spacey recently got out of another legal situation when criminal charges against him were dropped in Nantucket, Massachusetts. In that case, Spacey pleaded not guilty to felony indecent assault and battery, and prosecutors withdrew charges after the accuser — a teenage busboy — stopped cooperating.
The "John Doe" lawsuit subsequently represented the most significant legal situation for Spacey, who has been accused of sexually improper conduct against multiple individuals. In this case, as detailed in joint report filed in August, the plaintiff's lawyers represented to the court two other alleged masseur victims of Spacey expressing "concern for their safety and/or do not want their names revealed publicly in the media."
The lawsuit could continue by the heirs of "John Doe," though the issue of anonymity provides a complicating wrinkle. To show standing to sue, the heirs would likely have to identify the deceased accuser after getting a green light to administer his estate in probate court. A judge might also be less inclined to protect the privacy interests of the deceased. Even if the case moves forward, the loss of the most important witness to the alleged sexual assault would make it difficult to litigate.
Doe's lawyer Genie Harrison on Wednesday sent The Hollywood Reporter a lengthy statement in response to the filing. "It is true that Mr. Doe recently died," said Harrison. "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. 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. Spacey ignored our request for compassion and filed the notice yesterday without our consent."
Harrison goes on to say that the filing starts a 90-day clock on her ability to substitute Doe's estate as a plaintiff, and calls the decision to file the notice "unnecessary and contemptible."
"Mr. Doe’s family must now open his estate at the same time as planning a funeral and processing their grief," said Harrison. "Mr. Doe was a dignified, kind, middle-aged man traumatized by Spacey’s alleged sexually depraved attack. 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."
Sept. 18, 2:50 p.m. Updated with a statement from John Doe's attorney Genie Harrison.