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Kevin Spacey pleads not guilty to groping young man at bar

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  • NANTUCKET, Mass. — Kevin Spacey pleaded not guilty Monday to groping an 18-year-old busboy in 2016 in the first criminal case brought against the disgraced actor following a string of sexual misconduct allegations that crippled his career.

    Spacey’s court appearance came more than a year after former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh accused the former “House of Cards” star of sexually assaulting her son in a bar on the Massachusetts resort island of Nantucket.

    Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett ordered Spacey to stay away from his accuser and the man’s family. Spacey will not have to appear at his next hearing on March 4, but he must be available by phone, Barrett said.

    The judge also ordered Spacey’s accuser and the man’s then-girlfriend to preserve text messages and other data on their cellphones from the day of the alleged assault and six months after. Spacey’s attorney Alan Jackson told the judge they believe the cellphones contain information that is “likely exculpatory” for Spacey.

    The actor and his lawyers declined to comment as they left the courthouse amid a crush of reporters. Spacey, wearing a grey suit, navy vest and polka dot tie, didn’t speak during the hearing and his lawyers entered the not-guilty plea on his behalf.

    In court documents, Spacey’s lawyers called the accusations “patently false” and noted that prosecutors have no witnesses to the alleged groping. Spacey’s lawyers wrote that the teen lied about his age, “welcomed” drinks bought by Spacey, left the bar with him to smoke a cigarette and gave Spacey his phone number.

    “At best, this describes two people engaged in mutual and consensual flirtation, nothing more,” his attorneys wrote.

    If convicted of felony indecent assault and battery, the 59-year-old two-time Oscar winner could face as many as five years in prison.

    Unruh’s son told police that he wanted to get a picture with the former “House of Cards” star and went over to talk to him after his shift ended at the Club Car, a popular island bar and restaurant, according to court documents. The man said Spacey bought him several drinks and tried to convince him to come home with him before unzipping the man’s pants and groping him for about three minutes.

    The accuser told police that he tried to move Spacey’s hands, but the groping continued, and he didn’t know what to do because he didn’t want to get in trouble for drinking. The man said he fled when Spacey went to the bathroom.

    The Associated Press does not typically identify people alleging sexual assault.

    The civil attorney for the accuser said in a statement 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 has represented hundreds of clergy sexual abuse victims. Garabedian is not a part of the criminal case against Spacey.

    Media trucks lined the street before dawn, and locals on the island, which teems with tourists in the summer but quiets down in the winter, drove by slowly to take photos of reporters standing in line in the cold. When the doors opened, more than two dozen journalists packed the courtroom hours before Spacey was scheduled to appear.

    A judge denied Spacey’s bid to avoid appearing in person Monday. Spacey had argued that his presence would “amplify the negative publicity already generated” by the case.

    Hours after the court appearance, Spacey was pulled over for speeding as he exited Washington’s Reagan National Airport and given a warning, said Athena Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

    After the sexual assault charge was announced last month, Spacey released a video in the voice of Frank Underwood, his character on “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.

    Spacey was ousted from the Netflix series and other productions after he was accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour by numerous people amid the #MeToo movement.

    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.

    Spacey remains under investigation on suspicion of sexual assault in Los Angeles for an incident that allegedly occurred in 2016. Prosecutors declined to file charges over a 1992 allegation because the statute of limitations had expired.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Matthew Barakat contributed to this report from Falls Church, Va.

    ___

    This story has been corrected to show that Spacey’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf instead of Spacey not entering a plea.

    Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press







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    National Entertainment

    Daniel and Eugene Levy discuss decision to end ‘Schitt’s Creek’ after season 6

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  • TORONTO — “Schitt’s Creek” fans, prepare to say goodbye to the Rose family.

    As the hit Canadian comedy series cements its status as a critical and cultural smash during its fifth season, father-and-son co-creators Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy have announced the story will come to an end next year.

    In a statement on Daniel Levy’s social media accounts Thursday, they revealed the beloved half-hour show will wrap up for good at the end of its sixth season. The 14 final episodes are due to begin in January 2020 on CBC in Canada and Pop TV in the U.S.

    It’s a decision the Levys reached a long time ago and is one they’re excited about, they stressed in interviews with The Canadian Press, noting they’ve envisioned this final chapter from the beginning.

    “I’ve always known how the show was going to end,” Daniel Levy, who is also the showrunner, said by phone from Toronto.

    “I’ve always seen every season of our show as a chapter in the story of this family’s life, and we have reached our inevitable conclusion in that story, so it was the right time and it was something that I had been building to for five seasons.”

    The Levys also play father and son on the sitcom, alongside Catherine O’Hara as the mother and Annie Murphy as the daughter of the Rose family, who lost their fortune due to a shady business manager and now live in a motel in a small town the dad bought as a joke years ago.

    Each character has carved out their own niche in the town over the years, providing nuance and a joyful spirit that has helped “Schitt’s Creek” grow in popularity from season to season.

    Where the show once was a modest gem, it now has a spot on Netflix, countless memes and mentions on social media, and accolades from top critics.

    “It’s really been quite unbelievable,” said Eugene Levy, a comedy treasure and “SCTV” alum who was born in Hamilton.

    “Having a show like ‘Schitt’s Creek’ in the autumn of my years, so to speak, is something not a lot of people get to experience.”

    The show has also spawned a live tour with sold-out audiences in Canada and the U.S., won several Canadian Screen Awards, and was up for a Critics’ Choice trophy in January.

    “I’m sure people will be questioning, ‘Why walk away when so many people are watching it?'” Toronto-born Daniel Levy said, noting he tries not to pay attention to the show’s buzz because he doesn’t want it to affect the creative process.

    “But the reality is, we’ve always been about the show, and I hope that when people watch this last season, they’ll understand that we did nothing but respect that experience.”

    Levy said he had a feeling around season 3 that the Roses’ story was halfway through and would be done come season 6. His dad was fully supportive and they’ve been carefully constructing the storylines to reach that conclusion ever since.

    “We’re going out on a nice, natural high and never really wanted to risk taking it any further into what I might call the law of diminishing returns,” said Eugene Levy.

    Executives at CBC and Pop say they’re sad the show is ending, but they admire the Levys’ commitment to wrapping it up on their own terms.

    “It’s creative genius, and who am I to mess with creative genius?” said Sally Catto, general manager of programming for CBC English Television, noting the show has grown the public broadcaster’s audience, particularly its younger demographic.

    “It really also became an anchor for a new era of (scripted) comedy at the CBC,” she added.

    “I truly think it will be, always, one of the greatest comedies ever created in this country.”

    Pop channel president Brad Schwartz, who also worked with Daniel Levy when he was at MTV Canada, said it’s their highest-rated original series and has helped define the network.

    “It’s devastating,” he said of the decision to end it. “It’s one of the most proud pieces of content I’ve ever been involved with.

    “You don’t get shows like this very often in a career.”

    Daniel Levy said he hopes the final season will provide closure and “tell the funniest, the sweetest, the most joyful episodes of our show we’ve ever told.”

    And he isn’t ruling out returning to the characters one day.

    “I would never say that this is the end. If we get an idea somewhere down the line that feels fresh and necessary and relevant, I would absolutely entertain any form of revisiting these lovely, strange characters.”

    Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press


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    National Entertainment

    Disney closes $71B deal for Fox entertainment assets

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  • Disney has closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, putting “Cinderella,” ”The Simpsons,” ”Star Wars” and “Dr. Strange” under one corporate roof.

    The deal is likely to shake up the media landscape. Among other things, it paves the way for Disney to launch its streaming service, Disney Plus, due out later this year. It will also likely lead to layoffs in the thousands, thanks to duplication in Fox and Disney film-production staff.

    By buying the studios behind “The Simpsons” and X-Men, Disney aims to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars.

    Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, “Star Wars,” Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox’s productions also include “The Americans,” ”This Is Us” and “Modern Family.”

    The deal helps Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish – from creating the programs to distributing them though television channels, movie theatres, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.

    Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call in February that Disney Plus and other direct-to-consumer businesses are Disney’s “No. 1 priority.”

    Cable and telecom companies have been buying the companies that make TV shows and movies to compete in a changing media landscape. Although internet providers like AT&T and Comcast directly control their customers’ access to the internet in a way that Amazon, YouTube and Netflix do not, they still face threats as those streaming services gain in popularity.

    AT&T bought Time Warner last year for $81 billion and has already launched its own streaming service, Watch TV, with Time Warner channels such as TBS and TNT, among other networks, for $15 a month.

    In addition to boosting the Disney streaming service, expected to debut next year, the deal paves the way for Marvel’s X-Men and the Avengers to reunite in future movies. Though Disney owns Marvel Studios, some characters including the X-Men had already been licensed to Fox.

    Disney also gets a controlling stake in the existing streaming service Hulu, which it plans to keep operating as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.

    No pricing has been disclosed for Disney Plus. The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Disney charges $5 a month for ESPN Plus, a service that offers programming distinct from the ESPN cable channel.

    Meanwhile, Fox Corp. — the parts of 21st Century Fox that are not part of the deal, including Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting — started trading on the Nasdaq under the “FOX” and “FOXA” tickers on Tuesday.

    Mae Anderson, The Associated Press


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    march, 2019

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