U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Former BuzzFeed reporter ordered to submit documents in lawsuit against Kevin Spacey

Incident Details

Date of Incident
December 6, 2021
New York, New York

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
December 6, 2021

Former BuzzFeed News reporter Adam B. Vary was subpoenaed for documents and materials on Dec. 6, 2021, as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit against actor Kevin Spacey. On Aug. 9, 2022, a district judge granted a motion to compel Vary to partially comply with the order.

According to a September 2020 civil complaint, Anthony Rapp was a 14-year-old actor in a Broadway play in 1986 when Spacey befriended him and invited him to a party at his New York City apartment, where Rapp claims Spacey sexually abused him.

Rapp approached journalist Vary, who was also a long-time friend, in 2017 about his claims against Spacey. Vary then wrote an article about the allegations published by BuzzFeed in late October 2017.

Vary complied with a Nov. 4, 2021 subpoena requesting a deposition, which the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented here. He objected to the second subpoena, which requested documents, on the grounds that the materials were protected under shield law and reporter’s privilege. Vary was reissued an identical subpoena on Dec. 29, 2021.

Spacey’s attorney filed a motion on Feb. 9, 2022, to compel the journalist to provide additional testimony and submit his unpublished reporting materials.

According to documents reviewed by the Tracker, Vary was ordered to submit the withheld materials for an “in-camera” inspection on June 7 in a judge’s chambers to determine which documents were privileged and which were not.

Vary submitted five USB sticks containing various documents, a copy of an opposition declaration, a log of confidential source information, a record of attorney-client communications and a transmittal letter of all materials submitted for inspection, according to court documents.

New York District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled on Aug. 9 that Vary would have about a week to turn over documents that were not deemed confidential, including communications between him and Rapp before 2017, and any communications Vary had with a production company regarding a documentary on Spacey. Kaplan also ordered Vary to sit for an additional deposition on or before Sept. 9, 2022, requiring him to answer all questions he initially refused to answer during his first deposition as well as answer further questions about the newly produced documents.

Jean-Paul Jassy, Vary’s lawyer, told the Tracker in a statement that he was pleased the ruling protected Vary’s confidential reporting.

“The Court correctly concluded that Adam B. Vary acted as a professional journalist should. The Court denied most of Spacey's motion. Although we don't agree with all aspects of the Court's order, we appreciate that the Court rejected nearly all of what Spacey's attorneys requested, and the Court did not order the disclosure of any privileged material. Mr. Vary fully protected his confidential sources,” Jassy said.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].