Bill Cosby found liable in civil case for sexual assault in 1975

SANTA MONICA (California) • A California jury in a civil case ruled on Tuesday that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted a woman at the Playboy Mansion in 1975 when she was a teenager and ordered the comedian to pay her US$500,000 (S$695,000) in damages for emotional distress from the incident.

Ms Judy Huth had testified that Cosby invited her and a friend to the mansion when she was 16 and he was 37, and forced her to perform a sex act.

The verdict came nearly a year after Cosby, now 84, was freed from prison when Pennsylvania's highest court threw out his sexual assault conviction in a different criminal case there.

Ms Huth's lawsuit was the first civil case against Cosby to come to trial. Ms Huth, now 64, said she was "elated" by the ruling in the case, which she filed in 2014 after media reports detailed accusations against Cosby by multiple women. "It's been so many years, so many tears," she told reporters outside California Superior Court in Santa Monica.

Cosby, who did not appear in person at the trial, denied Ms Huth's allegation. His defence team will appeal the verdict, said Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt.

"Mr Cosby continues to maintain his innocence and will vigorously fight these false accusations, so he can get back to bringing happiness, joy and laughter to the world," said Mr Wyatt in a statement.

Cosby is best known for his role as the lovable husband and father in the television comedy series The Cosby Show (1984 to 1992), earning him the nickname "America's Dad".

But his family-friendly reputation shattered after more than 50 women accused him of sexual assaults over nearly five decades.

Ms Huth brought the case under a California law that allows people who claim they were abused as children to file civil cases years later as adults.

The jury did not rule entirely in Ms Huth's favour. By a nine-to-three vote, they said she had not provided "clear and convincing evidence" that Cosby had acted with "malice, oppression or fraud".

In a video shown to jurors, Cosby said he did not remember Ms Huth. He added that the incident could not have happened as he would not have pursued sexual contact with someone under the age of 18.

Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean challenged Ms Huth's account throughout the trial, including her revised timeline.

When the lawsuit was filed in December 2014, Ms Huth said the incident occurred in 1974, when she was 15. She told jurors she recently concluded that she had been mistaken about the year and now believes it happened in 1975.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Bill Cosby found liable in civil case for sexual assault in 1975. Subscribe