Actor Kevin Spacey is facing a felony charge in an alleged sexual assault of the teenage son of former Boston news anchor Heather Unruh at a Nantucket bar in July 2016, the latest legal entanglement for the two-time Academy Award winner over claims of sexual misconduct.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said Monday that Spacey, 59, was scheduled to be arraigned on a charge of indecent assault and battery at Nantucket District Court on Jan. 7, after a Dec. 20 public show-cause hearing where clerk magistrate Ryan Kearney issued a criminal complaint.
O’Keefe, who spoke by phone and read from a statement, declined to comment further.
The actor was first accused of sexual misconduct near the start of the #MeToo movement, which exploded into American life in late 2017 and has provided a forum for women and some men across the country to share personal, painful stories of abuse and harassment.
The movement has in some cases led to criminal charges and derailed the careers of scores of high-profile figures, from Hollywood executives and celebrities to prominent politicians, including movie producer Harvey Weinstein and former senator Al Franken.
Spacey is being investigatedafter numerous sexual assault accusations, which began surfacing in the fall of 2017 and prompted his removal from Netflix’s “House of Cards,’’ the former popular political drama. His role in a Ridley Scott film was also cut.
The charge Spacey faces carries penalties of up to five years in prison or up to two and a half years in jail or house of correction and a requirement to register as a sex offender, according to court documents.
“I’m pleased that the case is moving forward in the judicial system,’’ Unruh, who had worked for WCVB-TV, said Monday.
Shortly after the Globe published a story online about the criminal charges, Spacey broke his lengthy Twitter silence to post a bizarre video along with the caption, “Let Me Be Frank.’’
In the video, Spacey appeared to assume the character of Frank Underwood, the dangerously ambitious politician-turned-president in “House of Cards’’ and used the character’s Southern accent.
“I told you my deepest, darkest secrets. I showed you exactly what people are capable of. I shocked you with my honesty, but mostly I challenged you and made you think. And you trusted me. Even though you knew you shouldn’t,’’ he said.
It was unclear whether the timing of the post was a coincidence or whether anything Spacey said in the three-minute video was somehow related to the charge announced on Monday.
The case emerged during an emotional news conference in November 2017, when Unruh publicly accused Spacey of sexually assaulting her son.
Unruh said that in July 2016 her then 18-year-old son was at The Club Car, where the actor was among the late-night crowd in the dimly lit restaurant. Her son was mesmerized by Spacey and told him he was old enough to drink, Unruh said previously.
Unruh said Spacey purchased alcohol for her son until he was drunk and then stuck his hand inside the teenager’s pants and grabbed his genitals. During the encounter, Unruh said, her son tried to shift his body away from Spacey but was “only momentarily successful.’’ The actor urged her son to accompany him to an after-hours party to drink more, she said.
Unruh said her son fled the restaurant when Spacey excused himself to use the bathroom and a woman urged the youth to run. He sprinted to his grandmother’s house and told his sister what happened, Unruh said. The siblings then called Unruh, who traveled to Nantucket in the morning, she said.
“The victim, my son, was a star-struck, straight 18-year-old young man who had no idea that the famous actor was an alleged sexual predator or that he was about to become his next victim,’’ Unruh said at the 2017 press conference accompanied by attorney Mitchell Garabedian and her daughter, Kyla. “This was a criminal act.’’
Unruh said her son reported the incident to Nantucket police in the fall of 2017 and provided evidence to investigators.
The case was investigated by State Police troopers assigned to the detective unit at the district attorney’s office. They interviewed Unruh’s son and several others, according to court documents.
The documents describe how Unruh’s son told investigators that on the night of the alleged assault, Spacey bought the teenager four or five beers and then four or five glasses of whiskey and said at one point, “Let’s get drunk.’’
Unruh’s son also told investigators that Spacey asked the teenager questions about his genitals and Spacey described his own, according to the documents.
The teenager texted someone while Spacey was allegedly groping him and sent that person a video of the alleged assault. It’s unclear if investigators were able to view that video since it was sent via a service in which messages, including videos, eventually disappear, by design.
But the person who received the message confirmed it to investigators, the documents show.
The documents also say that after Unruh’s son fled from the bar, Spacey texted the teenager, “I think we lost each other.’’
Other people interviewed by investigators confirmed seeing Spacey and the teenager together at the bar that evening.
One person said they noticed the teenager at one point turn “pale, blank, a bit frightened.’’ Others said the teenager described to them what Spacey allegedly had done soon after the incident.
It’s unclear if anyone interviewed by investigators saw the alleged groping.
Unruh said in the fall of 2017 that her son asked Unruh to speak publicly about the encounter. He didn’t go to authorities sooner, she said, because of embarrassment and fear. Soon after the alleged attack, however, Unruh said she discussed it with Nantucket’s sheriff, who urged him to file a complaint.
During her news conference, Unruh also alleged Spacey had targeted another man during a visit to the island.
Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of survivors of clergy sexual abuse, said in an e-mail Monday: “The complainant has shown a tremendous amount of courage in coming forward. Let the facts be presented, the relevant law applied and a just and fair verdict rendered.’’
He declined to comment further “because of the pending criminal matter.’’
Court records list Spacey’s attorney in the Nantucket case as Boston lawyer Juliane Balliro. The actor has also been represented previously by Los Angeles attorney Bryan Freedman.
Neither attorney could be reached on Monday.
Spacey’s tweet on Monday was the first he posted to Twitter since Oct. 30, 2017, in which he came out as a gay man in response to being accused of molestation by actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was a teenager.
Spacey-as-Underwood ended his video by pointing out that “House of Cards’’ fans never actually saw the death of his murderous character, which proved a point of intrigue in the sixth and final season.
He then slipped on the heavy class ring that his character wore on the show.
“Conclusions can be so deceiving. Miss me?’’