Kristina Ruehli, 77, has told the story of her experience with Bill Cosby many times over the years — including to Andrea Constand’s lawyers in 2005, when she became one of the Jane Doe accusers who said they would support Constand’s story of allegedly being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in 2004, should the lawsuit have gone to trial.
Since Cosby settled with Constand in 2006, for an amount later revealed to be nearly $3.4 million, Ruehli never did testify in court. But during the flood of accusations against Cosby in 2014, when 60 women came forward with similar allegations about the comedian’s sexual predations, Ruehli did publicly accused him, first in an interview with Philadelphia Magazine, and later appearing on CNN and elsewhere.
More from Variety
Reached at her home in New Hampshire on Friday, Ruehli remembered that time: “We started the #MeToo movement. We did!”
As the accusations mounted, Cosby’s attorney and spokespeople at first responded, issuing blistering statements of denial. But as the numbers grew, they stopped answering the allegations — and Cosby never testified at trial.
“By his silence, Cosby has ceded his power to us,” Ruehli said.
This week, Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his 2018 conviction for sexually assaulting Constand. The ruling was on a legal technicality, but Ruehli is taking Cosby’s release somewhat in stride. “He’s free to do what?” she said. “How many people are going to pay attention to him even?”
“And certainly people aren’t going to want to be interviewing him or whatever — because we all know,” Ruehli said. “And this is a silly thing that he got off on. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”
A spokesperson for Cosby declined to comment.
In 1965, when she was 22, Ruehli was working at a talent agency in Beverly Hills, and Cosby came into the office for a meeting. He invited her to a party at his house. When she arrived, though, there was no one else there — except one of Cosby’s children, whom he showed her asleep in a crib, she said. Cosby gave Ruehli a drink, and soon after that, she doesn’t remember anything — until, she alleges, she woke up to him trying to force her to perform oral sex on him. She felt sick, and went into the bathroom to throw up. When she left the bathroom, Cosby wasn’t around anymore, so she drove herself home. She never saw him in person again.
“I escaped from him by a lucky set of circumstances,” she said.
Ruehli immediately told her boyfriend at the time what had happened, she said, and over the years, she’s told many other people — including her daughter, who was watching “The Cosby Show” at the height of its popularity. She also told her daughter to always watch her drinks when she was with men. In the timeline of accusations against Cosby, her 1965 story is always first: But she knows of another woman from earlier than that who never came forward.
When Ruehli read about Constand’s story in 2005, she contacted the lawyers representing Constand to say, “Hey, the same thing happened to me.” She was prepared to do whatever was needed to back up Constand.
Ruehli didn’t know until later that a dozen women — strangers to each other then — had also come to Constand’s lawyers alleging that Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them. “I’d thought I was the only one, and then after I called Constand’s lawyers, I thought I was the only other one,” she said.
When asked about the 2014 deluge, which ended Cosby’s career and eventually led to his arrest and conviction for assaulting Constand, Ruehli said, “It was gruesome.” She grew tired of doing press every time something new happened, and didn’t get along with some of the, as she put it, “mean girls” among the other accusers. She didn’t participate, for instance, in the now-famous New York cover in which 35 women told their stories about Bill Cosby. “I got to a point where I just got away from it,” Ruehli said.
“There was one bright spot,” she added. “New Hampshire is a very small state. And so we’ve got 1.4 million people here. So a lot of people saw me on TV, and people would walk up to me in the restroom, and say, ‘I want to thank you so much. My daughter was raped when she was 14, and never told me until now.’ I got thanked a lot from people here in New Hampshire. But other than that, it was gruesome.”
Ruehli sued Cosby for defamation in 2015, saying he’d called her a liar after she came forward with her story. But she withdrew the lawsuit in June 2016, even after a judge had cleared the way for her claim to proceed, denying Cosby’s motion to dismiss it. She had gotten the vindication she wanted, she said, after her boyfriend from 1965 said in a deposition that he remembered what she’d told him back then.
She paid glancing attention to Cosby’s criminal trials, she said, the first of which resulted in a hung jury, the second of which led to his conviction.
Ruehli has only admiration for the Pennsylvania prosecutors who brought Cosby to trial: “I have a lot of respect for the people that put him away in the first place in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy.”
“I was very happy when he was convicted,” Ruehli continued. “I felt really happy for the other women — some of them were really damaged, I gotta tell you. Something like that you live with for years, and you’ve been raped or sodomized a lot of the time. And so they had had pain that had never gone away. And it still hasn’t gone away. And in fact, it’s worse for them now.”
Ruehli, however, is relatively at peace with Cosby’s release.
“To me, he was forever gone — and he’s forever gone now,” Ruehli said. “It’s just a different way of looking at it. He’s still in prison, as far as I’m concerned.”
Best of Variety