The felony charge comes from a 2016 incident in which the House of Cards actor is alleged to have stuck his hands down an 18-year-old's trousers and grabbed his genitals after buying him drinks at a Nantucket restaurant.
The actor's lawyers entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf to a charge of felony indecent assault and battery. Spacey does not have to appear, the judge ruled, but he needs to be available by phone. The court also ordered preservation of cell phone data from the alleged victim's phone from July 2016 to six months after the alleged incident.
It's the first criminal case brought against Spacey after several sexual misconduct allegations crippled his career in 2017.
The accuser said he initially lied to Spacey by saying he was a 23-year-old college student and also told investigators that he was the one who approached Spacey, wanting a photo, and proceeded to drink heavily before the alleged assault took place some time after midnight, reports in the case show. Spacey did not say a word as he walked through the mass of cameras.
The case marks the first time Spacey has faced charges, although there are dozens of claims against him.
In court documents, Spacey's lawyers called the accusations "patently false" and noted that prosecutors have no witnesses to the alleged groping.
The civil attorney for the accuser said in a statement ahead of the hearing that his client is "leading by example". The alleged incident was said to have occurred when the alleged victim was 18 years old.
A lawyer for Spacey - whose legal name is Kevin S Fowler - had earlier asked the judge to allow the hearing to happen without the defendant present, but that request was refused.
In a video titled "Let Me Be Frank", Mr Spacey appeared in character as Frank Underwood from the Netflix series House of Cards, and said: "I'm certainly not going to pay the price for the thing I didn't do".
The court appearance comes after perhaps the strangest response that any celebrity has had to the recent wave of assault allegations. It was unclear whether he was referring to the charge.
The first public allegation of abuse came from actor Anthony Rapp, who claimed that Spacey sexually assaulted him when Rapp was 14, in 1986.