Bill Cosby team says accuser gave conflicting account of 'sex assault'

Ms Judy Huth testified at the trial that Cosby took her hand and forced her to perform a sex act on him when she was 16. PHOTO: NYTIMES

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA (NYTIMES) - Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby's defence team introduced a former reporter from The National Enquirer tabloid at his sexual assault trial in California on Friday (June 10), arguing that the reporter's depiction of Ms Judy Huth's encounter with Cosby at the Playboy Mansion starkly contradicted Ms Huth's own account from the stand.

Ms Huth, 64, testified at the trial that Cosby, now 84, took her hand and forced her to perform a sex act on him during a visit to the mansion in 1975, when she was 16.

But the reporter, Ms Robin Mizrahi, in a personal essay published in 2018, said that Ms Huth, identified by a pseudonym in the essay, had said in a 2005 interview that she was too scared to touch Cosby and had only watched as he performed a sex act on himself.

Cosby's team put forward the discrepancy as it tried to discredit Ms Huth's account, arguing that she has been inconsistent and too unreliable in her testimony to warrant being awarded damages in the lawsuit she has filed against him.

"This was based on what Judy told you," Ms Jennifer Bonjean, a lawyer for Cosby, said to Ms Mizrahi. "Judy told you she just watched."

But Ms Mizrahi, a witness for the defence, said she could not vouch for her essay's accuracy, saying she had tried to reconstruct the 2005 interview to the best of her recollection, not from any contemporaneous notes of their conversation.

"I crafted it out of memory," she said.

She said that quotation marks she had added to remarks attributed to Ms Huth, identified as Debra in the passage, were included "for readability purposes".

The essay said the encounter had happened in the 1980s, and Ms Mizrahi conceded there were errors.

"I obviously didn't have all the facts right," she said. "I didn't feel it was the point of the story."

During her time on the stand earlier this week, Ms Huth had been asked to discuss the same quote that suggested she had described her encounter with Cosby differently in 2005.

Ms Huth denied the accuracy of Ms Mizrahi's essay.

"I swear to God, on my kids' life, that is a lie," she said.

The arguments over the quotation came as Cosby's legal team introduced what are expected to be the final witnesses in the case, which is expected to go to the jury for deliberations early next week.

Bill Cosby’s lawyers before his trial at a courthouse in Santa Monica, California, on June 9, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

The 12-person panel, sitting in a courthouse in Santa Monica, California, will be asked to provide its verdict based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Only nine of the 12 will have to agree on a finding to reach a verdict, unlike the unanimity required in a criminal case.

Ms Mizrahi said she wrote the 2018 essay after she left the Enquirer because she wanted to draw attention to Cosby's celebrity power.

The earlier article that Ms Mizrahi was working on in 2005, for which Ms Huth was interviewed, was never published.

Ms Mizrahi said the Enquirer cancelled the article after Cosby agreed to a full interview with the publication.

Ms Huth contacted the Enquirer after reading another article about Cosby that questioned his conduct with a woman. When Ms Mizrahi called her back, the former reporter testified that she asked Ms Huth whether she had any evidence to support her account.

Ms Huth said she had photographs of herself with Cosby at the Playboy Mansion. Two photographs of Cosby and Ms Huth together have been entered into evidence at the trial.

Cosby's lawyers have suggested that Ms Huth's call to The National Enquirer is evidence that she was looking to make money by selling the photographs. Ms Huth has denied that was her motivation for coming forward.

Ms Mizrahi said Ms Huth would likely have been paid US$7,000 (S$9,700) to US$8,000 for the photographs if the 2005 article had been published.

Efforts to reach the publication on Friday for comment on Ms Mizrahi's testimony were unsuccessful.

Earlier on Friday, the defence introduced an expert witness who spoke about how memories can be contaminated and also influenced by other events, including media coverage.

"Excessive negative media coverage is likely to attach a label to a person. That label can affect how people remember their own experiences and inflate them to make them seem more bad than they were," said Professor Elizabeth Loftus, an expert on psychology and law.

"When people get confronted with impossibilities, they often change their memories to make it make sense."

Another witness for Cosby, psychologist Julie Brovko, testified later on Friday that she had examined Ms Huth and could not connect the trauma Ms Huth said she was feeling in 2014, when she filed her lawsuit, with her encounter with Cosby.

"She has a long history of traumatic experiences," she said. "Those things could also be the cause of the symptoms she was experiencing at the time."

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