From Jokes to Court: Bill Cosby and Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Photo by:  María Victoria Heredia Reyes

In October 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress mocked Bill Cosby’s history as an alleged rapist during a stand-up routine at a Philadelphia comedy club. Video of the show quickly went viral, and in less than a month 20 women had stepped forward with accusations of sexual assault incidents allegedly occurring between 1965 and 2004. Over the course of the next year, the public accusations snowballed with a flurry of sexual assault lawsuit filings in California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Following a July revelation in which a federal judge unsealed court testimony in which Bill Cosby admitted to obtaining sedatives (Quaalude) with the intent of giving them to women he “wanted to have sex with”, even more women filed suit. While most allege defamation (due to statute of limitations on sexual assault), a few plaintiffs are focusing their lawsuits primarily on the assault.

Judy Huth is among the more than 50 women accusing Cosby of rape, molestation, and/or abuse during the comedian’s years in the entertainment industry. Because Huth was 15 at the time of her alleged assault in 1975, Huth’s suit is within the California statute of limitations. She has filed complaints for sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. This makes Huth’s lawsuit the first significant court case to be brought against Cosby since a similar 2005 sexual assault lawsuit that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

According to Huth’s lawsuit, Cosby approached Huth and her friend when they happened upon a movie set where Cosby was working. The former comedian invited them to his Los Angeles Country tennis club on the following Saturday.

Once there, the suit alleges Cosby invited the teenagers back to a house where he served Huth alcoholic beverages and played billiards. Following these games, Huth and her friend followed Cosby again to the Playboy Mansion where the comedian instructed the two to state their age as 19.

During their time at the Playboy Mansion, Huth alleges she emerged from a bathroom to discover Cosby sitting atop a bed. Cosby allegedly requested Huth to sit next to him as he attempted to “put his hand down her pants.” Following this he allegedly took Huth’s hand into his and used it to perform a sexual act upon himself “without her consent”.

The deposition for the Huth lawsuit occurred in October and is currently under review by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan.

Until December, Cosby had not been charged criminally despite three investigations into previous allegations. However that changed when he was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, all Class II felonies in Pennsylvania.

Source: Bill Cosby questioned under oath over allegations in molestation case, LA Times, accessed 10 Oct 2015.

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes via Unsplash.