Jury hears Bill Cosby sexual assault claims as new civil case begins

·3-min read

Bill Cosby faced sexual assault allegations at a new civil trial in California Wednesday, where opening statements addressed an alleged attack on a teenage girl at the Playboy Mansion almost 50 years ago.

The case is one of the few remaining legal actions against Cosby, 84, who has been accused of assault by dozens of women. He was jailed in 2018, but was freed last year when his conviction in a separate criminal case was overturned.

Judy Huth, plaintiff in the new California case, alleges the veteran comic once known as "America's Dad" met her in 1975 when she was 16, plied her with alcohol, took her to the Los Angeles mansion owned by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and sexually assaulted her in a bedroom.

"Immediately after she sat down (on the bed) he pounced... He started trying to put his hands down her pants," attorney Nathan Goldberg told the jury.

When she told him she was on her period, Cosby exposed his penis and forced her to masturbate him, Goldberg said in his opening statement.

But Cosby's lawyers denied any assault, and questioned Huth's description of events after the accuser changed her account of the date it took place, from 1974 to 1975.

"It's not just a little mistake," attorney Jennifer Bonjean said. "It's evidence of a fabrication."

Having not been ordered to testify in person, Cosby does not plan to attend proceedings in California and remains at home in New York, his spokesman told AFP. He has given a video deposition.

- 'A planner' -

Huth first filed her lawsuit claiming sexual battery and infliction of emotional distress in 2014, when allegations against Cosby from other women had just begun to emerge.

"It was like a cork popped out of a bottle," said Goldberg. "Memories came rushing to the surface... she became overwhelmed by memories of Mr Cosby and what he had done."

California law allows adults who say they were sexually abused as minors, but have only recently become aware of the damage, to bring civil cases years after the statute of limitations would normally have expired.

Huth's case was put on hold for Cosby's separate criminal trial, and when Cosby was found guilty in 2018 "it was like closure for her," said Goldberg.

But that conviction -- which made him the first celebrity jailed for sexual assault during the #MeToo era -- was overturned on a technicality last June, and a judge ruled Huth's civil case could move forward.

Huth's lawyer Goldberg said two other women allegedly assaulted in 1975 by Cosby will testify at the trial, and pointed out similarities in how Cosby had used his celebrity status to meet the then-teenagers.

"He meets them under circumstances that don't seem threatening... He takes them to places they'd not feel threatened," said Goldberg.

"In each case his intention is to have unconsented-to sex.

"He's a planner... Why is he hanging around with these young kids?"

Cosby was once a towering figure in late-20th century American popular culture, and hit the big time as affable obstetrician and father Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," which ran from 1984-92.

But around 60 women, many of them onetime aspiring actresses and models, have publicly branded Cosby as a calculating, serial predator who plied victims with sedatives and alcohol to bed them over four decades.

The trial is expected to last around two weeks.

amz/st

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting