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In the weeks since The Hollywood Reporter first published stylist Susan Bertram’s allegations of sexual assault against actor Robert Knepper, four more women have come forward with similar claims. These new accusations span several decades and include incidents that are alleged to have taken place in both the U.S and Canada. The women have described unwanted and even violent sexual advances that they felt compromised their safety and sense of well-being. “I don’t want revenge,” said one of the women in a recent telephone interview, “I just want peace.”
Best known for his role as Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell on the TV series Prison Break, Knepper has had dozens of roles on TV and in movies, including spots on Homeland, Transporter 3 and Hitman. The allegations against Knepper could cause potential problems for The CW, which in the early part of 2018 is set to air the upcoming season of iZombie, in which Knepper stars.
On Monday, Knepper issued the following statement:
“We have come to a time where hard-earned careers are being lost on the basis of accusations. I need to reiterate that these accusations against me are false. We have lost the presumption of innocence; we have lost ‘due process’; and we have lost the ability to review evidence — allowing the media to become both ‘judge and jury.’ Until I can sit down and have a dialogue with my accusers, managed not by the press but by an impartial mediator, I have nothing further to say on this matter. My wife, family and close friends, know me and my true nature and I am grateful for their love and support.”
The following accounts are listed in chronological order, between 1983 and 2013. All of the women contacted this magazine of their own volition, and said they had been spurred to come forward after reading about Susan Bertram’s experience.
It was October 1983, and Robin Saex Garbose was helping to cast a theater production of June Moon, at the Manhattan Punch Line, a comedy venue on New York’s Theater Row, near Times Square.
She was 23 at the time, and she remembers what she was wearing that day — a black sweatshirt dress and black lace-up boots with heels.
She remembers being in the office running the casting session when she spotted Knepper, who was a young, aspiring actor, handsome and charming, with a chiseled face and a disarming smile. He introduced himself and she gave him the audition side he’d be reading.
Garbose then went about her business handing out assignments, getting people in order and answering questions, before retreating to a nearby office to finish up some paperwork.
When she turned around, she says Knepper was on her.
“He had come into the office, he pushed me up against the wall and started kissing me,” she says. “It was physical.”
The encounter was brief and didn’t escalate further, but Garbose says she felt shaken and bothered by it, even though she couldn’t put words to her emotions.
In the end, Knepper didn’t get the part. Garbose didn’t tell anyone at the time but has since told her husband, which THR confirmed.
“Everything about it was wrong, but who knew the term ‘sexual harassment,’” she says. “It didn’t exist until Anita Hill.”
Now, more than three decades later, when Garbose read about Bertram’s allegations, she began to revisit her own experience.
“You see the beginnings of a predator,” says Garbose, who went on to direct several feature films as well as more than three-dozen plays in New York and L.A. “It had a certain violence and a total inappropriateness.”
She was 22 years old and had a job as the assistant company manager at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse. That year, 1989, the theater was putting on a play called Nebraska.
The woman, who is now married to a prominent TV actor, asked that her name not be used for this article, in part to protect her family.
Part of her job involved helping visiting actors get settled in. One day she found herself tasked with helping the play’s lead, Robert Knepper, move into his apartment, on the nearby campus of UCSD, which has had a longtime relationship with the playhouse.
She says she and Knepper met in the parking lot of the apartment complex. From there, they went inside. In the bedroom, she says Knepper asked her if there were hangars in the closet.
Before she knew it, she says, Knepper had cornered her, grabbed her arm and pushed her against a wall. She says he “pinned” her up against the closet wall and began kissing her and forcefully grabbing at her crotch through her jeans.
“I was really smashed against the wall,” she says, “It was shocking. His tongue was down my throat. You don’t know what to do. It was just so stunning. It was shocking, really. I had met this person maybe five minutes before.”
She says she eventually pulled away and then quickly left. She told no one about what had happened, and didn’t report anything to the police. For the rest of the play’s tour, she did her best to stay away from Knepper, avoiding him whenever she could. “I did my best not to be near him because he was so creepy,” she says.
She says she chose to come forward with her own story after reading Knepper’s denial of Susan Bertram’s allegation.
“When I saw the denial, it made me really mad,” she says.
It was years before she told anyone about it. Then one night a few years ago, she and her husband were binge-watching Heroes on Netflix when Knepper appeared. The woman broke down and confessed to her husband what had happened to her.
The husband verified that she told him what happened at the time. As an actor, he said he admired Knepper. “But as a man, I wanted to beat his face in,” he says, “Because he did this to the woman I love.”
In the summer of 2010, Emma Julia Jacobs had been working as a stylist in the makeup and special effects department on Planet of the Apes. Many of the cast and crew stayed at the Sutton Place, a hotel in downtown Vancouver popular with visiting Hollywood productions.
After a particularly grueling week, Jacobs was looking forward to getting back to the hotel. It was a Friday night and she stopped at a grocery store on her way home. Back at the hotel, her arms full of bags, she stepped into a full elevator.
Standing next to her, she says, was Robert Knepper, who smiled at her. Jacobs was exhausted but she smiled back. Jacobs says Knepper started up a conversation, telling her that he had seen her often at the gym, where she worked out on an EFX machine. “I’m always behind you,” she recalls him saying. The remark made her uncomfortable.
Jacobs exited the elevator at her floor. Knepper followed her out, and when she got to her door she says she stopped, waiting for him to finish his sentence and leave. Instead, he lingered. “Aren’t you going to open the door?” he asked.
“I was tired and frustrated already,” she says, “I assumed that since he walked out of the elevator with me, that he was also on the same floor. I had no reason to be rude to him but I wasn’t in the mood for conversation either, but we both just wanted to put our stuff down so I let him in.”
She offered him water and they chatted for a while. Then she says he offered to take her to dinner. She declined several times but he persisted. Eventually she relented and agreed to go out. She says the conversation was casual, and that he asked a lot of personal questions.
“I just wanted to finish eating and go home,” she says.
Back at the hotel room, Knepper grabbed his things and was on his way out the door. When he paused for a few extra seconds, Jacobs says she told him she just wanted to go to sleep. She smiled and waved goodbye.
She says she turned and had just entered her bedroom when he attacked her. She says she felt the bedroom door slam on her as she lunged forward, kicking backwards at him. She tried to crawl to the other side of the bed, but says he dragged her by her legs, pulling her toward him.
“I fought him with all my strength,” she says. During an hourlong interview, Jacobs broke down crying repeatedly at several points as she recalled the events of that night. She says Knepper ripped her pants open, snapped the clasp and broke the zipper. She tried to clutch her zipper as tightly as she could.
Then, she says Knepper told her, “I’m going to fuck you senseless.” Jacobs says she said “No!” over and over again, and even cried out, thinking that someone might come to her rescue. Knepper was stronger, and so she says she gave up fighting and focused on keeping her zipper tightly shut, while simultaneously trying to push him away. She curled into a ball as Knepper tried to force her legs open.
When he failed, she says Knepper then forced her to perform oral sex.
“That’s it, that’s a good girl, just take it,” Jacobs recalls him saying. Jacobs kept her legs shut. She says Knepper held her down and proceeded to masturbate on her.
After he was done, Jacobs says Knepper complimented her on how good she had made him feel. Then she says he told her, “Either you’re a pervert or there’s something really wrong with me.”
Jacobs didn’t report the incident to police. Nor did she tell anyone from her production.
Two close friends of Jacobs verified she told them her story of the assault. One of them, whom she told several weeks after it occurred, said, “She did tell me about this incident, and it made me really angry.”
Over the years, Jacobs says she has had to take care to avoid Knepper, but that he crops up occasionally in odd ways. She recently attended a screening at a close friend’s house for a movie in which Knepper appeared. When she discovered this, she broke down crying and told the friend that if Knepper was going to come she would have to leave.
The pain of Knepper’s alleged assault was made more acute by the fact that Jacobs had endured sexual violence before, she says, and those experiences had left her feeling insecure and disempowered, especially around men who were interested in her.
Thus, when the friend at the screening assured her that Knepper was “a good person,” she felt sick.
Director and writer Christy Oldham had just finished watching a screening of a new movie at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, in 2013. Afterward, during the reception, she got into conversation with Robert Knepper, who had starred in the film.
Oldham says Knepper suggested they get a bite to eat, and she agreed. During the meal, at Miceli’s, she says they began talking about making a movie together. Knepper told her he wanted her to write a short film they both could act in.
Then, during the conversation, she says Knepper reached over, took her hand and placed it on his erection.
Oldham says she was distraught and bothered, but that she put on a tough front.
“Mine is bigger,” she retorted. She says Knepper then told her that he had just gotten married, but that he would “like to fuck me.”
“Join the club,” she shot back. Knepper then told her he had once shot a scene in Micelis, and walked her through it, standing in front of her as he did.
They went outside and Oldham says Knepper pushed her up against a brick wall. “I would fuck you right here if I wasn’t married,” she claims he told her, holding her tightly against the wall.
Oldham says she was scared at the time, but that she didn’t want to show it. She also says that she had become so accustomed to sexually aggressive behavior by men that she was somewhat inured to it. Nevertheless, it left a negative impression.
“It’s always a scary situation, but I wasn’t going to let him see that I was scared,” she says, “I can be scared later. It wasn’t comfortable, but I wasn’t going to let him get the best of me.”
Oldham had tackled the issue of sexual assault before. She directed Barracuda, a movie she describes as being about “normal professional men who are also pedophiles and rapists.”
Oldham wrote about the experience with Knepper in a journal shortly after it happened, and shared her entry with THR.
“His face [was] mere inches from mine,” she wrote, “I pushed him off of me and walked back to the Egyptian. What a fucking loser.”
There, she immediately told her friend Clinton Wallace, a producer friend who had invited her to the screening. Wallace confirmed Oldham’s account in a recent interview.
“I know it hurt her a lot…she looks up to these people,” he said, “I had invited her, and I sort of felt responsible.”
Oldham is cynical about the way that sexual dynamics have crept into the way business is conducted in Hollywood.
“I think all women go through this, there’s nothing unique about me or my story,” says Oldham, “If you have a heartbeat and a vagina you’re going to experience this behavior from people with penises.”
As different as these women’s experiences are, they say they felt that Knepper acted inappropriately and even violently toward them. And for some, like Jacobs, the experience has left them feeling psychologically damaged.
Knepper’s first accuser, longtime Hollywood stylist Susan Bertram, says Knepper sexually assaulted her on the set of Gas, Food, Lodging, a 1992 Alison Anders film. Bertram says Knepper violently grabbed her crotch while she attempted to drop off some clothes in his trailer, an experience that left her bleeding and shaken.
In response to that initial allegation, Knepper issued a statement on Instagram. “I am shocked and devastated to be falsely accused of violence against a woman,” he wrote, “That’s just not who I am.”
This latest wave of allegations fits a pattern with other high-profile cases of sexual assault, in which an initial claim is followed by several more, often in response to the actions or words of the alleged perpetrator. Director Brett Ratner and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons have both been accused by multiple women, over a period of many weeks.
“I just can’t sit quiet while he denies the pain he’s inflicted all these years to women who are being labeled liars,” says Jacobs, who adds she hopes Knepper will ask for forgiveness from the women so that they — and he — can heal properly.
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