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What to Know About the Opera Star David Daniels’s Sexual Assault Trial


The opera star David Daniels, one of the world’s leading countertenors, is expected to go on trial in Houston this week over charges that he sexually assaulted a young singer after a performance there in 2010.

Mr. Daniels and his husband, Scott Walters, were arrested and charged with sexual assault in 2019 in connection to an incident in which the singer, Samuel Schultz, said he was drugged and assaulted by the couple, according to charging documents filed at the time by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas. Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walters have denied the accusations, saying they had consensual sex with Mr. Schultz.

Mr. Daniels is one of the most prominent classical stars to face criminal charges during the national #MeToo reckoning. His performing career has suffered since the arrest, and he was fired from his position as a tenured professor of voice at the University of Michigan in 2020.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin in Houston on Friday morning. Mr. Daniels, 57, and Mr. Walters, 40, each face one felony count of aggravated sexual assault.

Here’s what you need to know.

Mr. Daniels rose to fame as a countertenor, singing high parts that were once the province of castratos or mezzo-sopranos. He appeared on many of the world’s leading stages, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Royal Opera House in London.

He was featured on the cover of music magazines and released numerous recordings, and was known in particular for his performances of Handel, starring in productions of his operas “Rinaldo,” “Giulio Cesare,” “Rodelinda,” “Radamisto” and others. His success helped propel new interest in countertenors, and when he and Mr. Walters were married in 2014, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an avid opera fan, officiated.

Mr. Schultz, a baritone who is now 36, was a 23-year-old graduate student at Rice University, in Houston, at the time of the encounter with Mr. Daniels. He went public with an accusation of rape in 2018 amid the #MeToo movement — first anonymously, in an online post, and then naming Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walters as his attackers in an interview with The New York Daily News.

Mr. Schultz later became an officer at the American Guild of Musical Artists, the union representing American opera performers, but he resigned in 2020, citing concerns that the union had kept details of its sexual harassment investigation of the opera star Plácido Domingo confidential as part of negotiations for a $500,000 settlement from Domingo.

Mr. Schultz has accused the two men of assaulting him in May 2010 after he went to hear Mr. Daniels in Handel’s “Xerxes” at Houston Grand Opera.

Mr. Schultz has said he was introduced to Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walters by a friend. After attending the performance and cast party, Mr. Schultz has said he was invited to Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walters’s apartment. There, he said, he was given a drink that caused him to lose consciousness. He has said that he awoke alone, naked and bleeding from the rectum.

Mr. Daniels and Mr. Walters have repeatedly described the encounter as consensual. They say Mr. Schultz drove himself to their apartment after they attended several parties together.

“David and Scott are innocent of any wrongdoing,” their lawyer, Matt Hennessy, said in a statement in 2019. “Sam Schultz is not a victim. He never would have gotten this much attention from his singing, and he knows and resents that fact. He waited eight years to complain about adult, consensual sex to ride the #MeToo movement to unearned celebrity. We will fight this.”

Mr. Hennessy did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Schultz has said that he had been afraid to come forward with the accusations, worried it would hurt his career, and that he had told his family, his therapist and some friends about what happened at the time.

“I am pleased that finally, after several lengthy delays, I will get my day in court and hope that justice will be served,” Mr. Schultz said in a statement this week. “I look forward to testifying and having a jury hear the evidence of the case.”

A Houston police officer, D.H. Escobar, wrote in the charging documents that he had found Mr. Schultz to be “credible and reliable.” The officer said that he had met with a therapist Mr. Schultz consulted in 2010, and that her notes were consistent with what Mr. Schultz had told the police. The officer said he had also reviewed medical records that showed that Mr. Schultz had sought medical attention “as a result of the sexual assault” on June 1, 2010.

John Donnelly, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment on the case.

Dianna Wray contributed reporting from Houston.



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