Former Boston television anchor Heather Unruh made headlines Wednesday when she called for Kevin Spacey to serve jail time for allegedly groping her son last year at a Nantucket bar.
She could get her wish, but her 19-year-old son will face scrutiny if criminal charges are filed, legal specialists told the Globe.
Unruh said that the July 2016 incident was reported to Nantucket police last week and that her son was initially “embarrassed and afraid” after Spacey allegedly put his hand in the then 18-year-old’s pants and touched his genitals.
The incident falls well within the range of the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges, said Carmen Durso, a Boston attorney who represents sexual assault victims.
Among the charges Spacey could face are simple assault and battery and indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, Durso said. The latter charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.
“I think it would be difficult for him to get an unbiased jury, at this point,” Durso said. “As far as proving it, all you have to do is prove he’s not consenting. He’s standing there talking to this guy, and Spacey reaches down and touches him without any invitation on his part, without his permission. That’s a crime.”
But Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel for the Boston-based Victim Rights Law Center, an advocacy group for sexual assault victims, said an accuser bringing a similar case under normal circumstances would face an uphill battle.
“If he were a regular kid in a regular bar and someone did that, and a year goes by, I think [charges] would be unlikely,” Bruno said. “The best chance they would have is fifty-fifty.”
However, she said, the growing number of accusers making similar claims against Spacey could change the game.
“It increases the likelihood that it goes forward,” Bruno said. “Not necessarily because Spacey is famous. It’s basically the amount of allegations against him. It goes back to, if there’s one victim, everybody doubts the person. But if there’s 10 victims, [people think] ‘oh, maybe this did happen.’ Unfortunately, it’s often strength in numbers.”
Unruh’s son, who acknowledges drinking alcohol during his encounter with Spacey, would face tough questioning from defense attorneys if the case went to trial, including questions about any inconsistencies in accounts he may have given to other people, Bruno said.
“I think he can definitely expect to have to explain the fact that he was drinking and underage,” Bruno said. “The fact that he didn’t report it to the police [right away]. . . . He’s also going to get a lot of questions about consent. . . . ‘Didn’t you like the attention from Kevin Spacey? Wasn’t it special?’ That kind of thing. He wasn’t [a minor] at the time, so they’re going to try to place as much blame on him as they possibly can for the encounter. And of course he isn’t to blame, but that’s what a defense attorney does.”
A lawyer for Spacey didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.