Kevin Spacey has said he is “humbled” after being found not guilty of committing sexual offences against four men in the UK between 2001 and 2013.
The 64-year-old double Oscar winner cried as he was cleared after a trial that started at the end of June, during which he was described as a “sexual bully” by the prosecution.
On his birthday, he nodded at jurors as they left court, crying and wiping his face with a tissue, before letting out a big sigh and thanking court staff.
Jury reaches verdict – follow live
In a short statement to reporters outside Southwark Crown Court, the Hollywood actor said: “I imagine that many of you can understand that there is a lot for me to process after what has just happened today.
“But I would like to say that I am enormously grateful to the jury for having taken the time to examine all of the evidence and all of the facts carefully before they reached their decision and I am humbled by the outcome today.
“I also want to thank the staff inside this courthouse, the security and all those who took care of us every single day, my legal team, [manager] Evan and Lucy for being here every day and that’s all I have to say for the moment. Thank you very much.”
Members of the public cheered and filmed Spacey as he left the building, with one wishing him a happy birthday and another shouting “we love you Kevin” as he got into a taxi to leave.
Giving evidence, Spacey fought back tears as he told how his world “exploded” when other allegations first emerged against him in the US in 2017.
“There was a rush to judgement and before the first question was asked or answered I lost my job, I lost my reputation, I lost everything in a matter of days,” he told jurors.
Spacey, who was artistic director at The Old Vic theatre in London between 2004 and 2015, was accused of drugging and performing a sex act on a former aspiring actor while he slept, and of several assaults on another man – a driver who claimed the actor grabbed his crotch so hard on one occasion that he “almost come off the road”.
Another man claimed the Hollywood actor subjected him to a “barrage” of “vile” sexual abuse before grabbing his crotch “like a cobra” at a West End event, while the fourth said the Hollywood star kissed his neck and told him to “be cool”, again before grabbing his crotch.
Spacey, best known for films including American Beauty and The Usual Suspects and for US political drama series House Of Cards, vehemently denied all the allegations.
A jury cleared him of all the charges after deliberating for 12 hours and 26 minutes.
The judge, Mr Justice Wall, said jurors must have felt like they were in a “goldfish bowl” because of the level of interest in the case.
Denying the separate allegations by each of the men, Spacey told the court:
• He shared an “intimate” consensual moment with a former aspiring actor who claimed the star drugged him and performed a sex act on him while he was asleep in his flat
• He had a “somewhat intimate” relationship with another complainant, but denied assaulting him in a “violent, aggressive, painful way” – and said it felt like he had been stabbed in the back when he learned of the claims
• That allegations by a man he met in a West End theatre in the mid-2000s were “madness” and the incident described “never happened”
• That he may have “made a pass” at another complainant but was “happy that he testified that the moment he told me he was not interested, I stopped”.
His defence team had labelled the prosecution’s case against him as “weak” – accusing some of the complainants of being after money.
The actor told the court he was a “flirt” and had been “open” about times he had been “promiscuous”, adding: “It doesn’t make me a bad person.”
He later told jurors he found it “harder to trust people because of who I was”, due to his fame and status.
The actor also said he felt under pressure to come out publicly as gay after allegations of sexual misconduct were first levelled at him.
After he was cleared, the Crown Prosecution Service said prosecutors “respect the decision of the court” as a crowd gathered outside.
Speaking to Sky News after the verdict, director Gene Fallaize said Spacey was “naturally very quiet” and a “consummate professional” while recording for his latest film – Spacey is due to appear in Control as the voice of a self-driving car.
Fallaize revealed he never spoke directly to the actor about the accusations, adding his legal team laid things out “quite clearly” to him.
“He was everything I wanted him to be and more,” Fallaize said, adding: “I got no negativity off of him whatsoever, and I would watch him again in a heartbeat.”
He also said he texted Spacey after the verdict to congratulate him.