Lawyers for Kevin Spacey entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in Massachusetts court on Monday after being accused of groping an 18-year-old busboy in 2016.
Mr Spacey was released without having to pay bail on a charge of felony indecent assault and battery after a 10-minute hearing at Nantucket District Court.
The judge set another hearing for March 4. Mr Spacey does not have to appear, but has to be available by phone and was told not to make any contact with the alleged victim or his family.
The judge granted a request by Mr Spacey’s lawyers to preserve text messages and other data on the phones of the victim and his then-girlfriend on the day of the alleged assault and six months after.
Alan Jackson, Mr Spacey’s lawyer, told the judge they believe the phones contain information that is “likely exculpatory” for his client.
Mr Spacey and his lawyers declined to comment as they left the courthouse amid a crush of reporters. The actor, wearing a grey suit, navy vest and polka dot tie, did not speak during the hearing.
The hearing comes more than a year after a former Boston TV anchor accused the former House of Cards star of sexually assaulting her son, then 18, in the crowded bar at the Club Car, where the teen worked as a busboy.
Mr Spacey’s lawyers have tried to poke holes in the case, noting that the teenager didn’t immediately report the allegations and that authorities have no witnesses to the actual groping.
In court documents, Mr Spacey’s lawyers say that the young man lied about his age, “welcomed drinks” bought by Mr Spacey, left the bar with him to smoke a cigarette and gave the actor his phone number.
“At best, this describes two people engaged in mutual and consensual flirtation, nothing more,” his attorneys wrote. If convicted, Mr Spacey faces up to five years in prison.
The civil attorney for the accuser ahead of the hearing that his client is "leading by example."
“By reporting the sexual assault, my client is a determined and encouraging voice for those victims not yet ready to report being sexually assaulted,” said lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represented victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal.
It's the first criminal case brought against Mr Spacey, 59, since other allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in 2017.
After the charge was announced last month, Mr Spacey released a video in the voice of Frank Underwood, his character on Netflix's House of Cards, in which he said, "I'm certainly not going to pay the price for the thing I didn't do." It was unclear whether he was referring to the charge.
Mr Spacey has also faced other allegations. His first accuser, actor Anthony Rapp, said Spacey climbed on top of him on a bed when Rapp was 14 and Spacey 26. Spacey said he did not remember such an encounter but apologized if the allegations were true.