Bill Cosby Finally Goes to Court
His lawyers put up a ferocious fight, but the comedian must testify Friday about an alleged assault on a 15-year-old at the Playboy Mansion 40 years ago.
America’s favorite dad will finally be deposed.
In a fall from grace of epic proportions, a Los Angeles judge shot down a legal Hail Mary by Bill Cosby’s lawyers, who’d hoped to spare the septuagenarian funny man from being forced to answer questions about allegedly turning a teenager into a sex plaything inside the Playboy Mansion 40 years ago.
Judge Craig Karlan ruled that the civil lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court last December against Cosby could go forward, denying his lawyers’ claims that it was a blackmail attempt by a money-hungry shakedown artist who failed to peddle her Cosby rape claims to a tabloid a decade ago.
The lawsuit describes Cosby as a diabolical lover who lusted after and fondled a 15-year-old girl named Judith Huth and forced her to help him masturbate in a bedroom inside the vaunted estate.
The year was 1974, and Huth and her 16-year-old friend had ventured to Lacy Park, in San Marino, California, where Cosby was shooting a film. There they “were approached by Cosby, who then invited them to sit in a director’s chair and engaged in conversation with them,” according Huth’s civil lawsuit.
The papers say Cosby’s courtship was quick and coercive. The showman wasted no time asking their ages, and on learning they were 15 and 16 years old, he invited them to his tennis club the following Saturday, the papers state.
The girls met Cosby at the tennis club, and once there he asked them to follow him to a house “where he served them alcoholic beverages,” the papers say.
Cosby appeared to be a bit of a pool shark as the trio engaged in a game of beer billiards. “Under the terms of Cosby’s game, [Huth] was required to consume a beer every time Cosby won,” according to the civil lawsuit.
Well inebriated—Cosby allegedly had downed three beers of his own, a point his lawyer dismissed in a filed memorandum—with the suds allegedly plied by the comedian, the girls were allegedly told he had a “surprise for them.”
Again they were asked to trail him, this time to the Playboy Mansion. There was a caveat: They were not to tell anybody their real ages.
Cosby allegedly told the girls that “if any of the Playboy bunnies asked their age, they should say they were 19,” the papers say.
At one point Huth needed to use the bathroom, and Cosby “directed her to a bathroom within a bedroom suite near the game room,” the lawsuit states. After she used the facilities, Huth opened the door to find Cosby comfortably lying on the bed. “He asked her to sit beside him,” the civil papers say.
That’s when the Jello pitchman allegedly had the gall to tryst with Huth. According to the civil lawsuit, Cosby “proceeded to sexually molest Huth by attempting to put his hand down her pants, and then taking her hand in his hand and performing a sex act on himself without her consent.”
Cosby’s alleged sexual attack became a “traumatic incident” for Huth that left her psychologically damaged and scarred her in what the civil lawsuit describes as causing “her significant problems throughout her life since the incident.”
The entire rundown is pure fiction, Cosby’s lawyer Martin Singer contends. In a response to the lawsuit, he called out the alleged victim and her original lawyer, Marc Strecker—she’s since retained big gun Gloria Allred as her counsel—for bringing “absolutely false” claims in their “baseless time-barred lawsuit” to crush an American icon after Huth couldn’t hawk her story to a tabloid.
Allred represents more than 20 women accusing Cosby of violating them. Many have gone public with allegations spanning decades, saying Cosby drugged them before raping them. Yet Cosby, until now, has managed to skirt charges and avoid admitting to any wrongdoing. A sea change happened last October, when comedian Hannibal Buress called out the comedian on stage, and since then Cosby’s collateral damage continues to widen, with more and more rape accusers coming forward.
The fact that Cosby’s lawyers can’t keep their client from being questioned has Barbara Bowman feeling like justice is near.
“His legal team has tried to pull every rabbit out of their hat, and there’s really nothing left,” she said.
Back in 1985, Bowman was a 17-year-old aspiring actress auditioning for Cosby inside Denver’s Turn of the Century nightclub. She came dolled up and meticulously dressed to impress for this pivotal moment in her career. “I wanted him to be my dad,” she said.
And at that time, who wouldn’t? Cosby was an institution on television. A do-gooder, a brilliant entertainer. “He was god,” Bowman said. “He was walking on water and wealthier than any president around the globe.”
Their first encounter was arranged by her female talent agent, who was known in Denver as a “barracuda.” Cosby demanded that Bowman role-play: He told her to strip down to a T-shirt and wet her coiffed hair and play drunk with her eyes closed. And then he went to work. Bowman, eager to show she was “directable,” said she did as she was told.
Adorned in his signature sweatsuit, Cosby “stood behind me in the chair and reached over me and put his hands down, down, down,” Bowman said. Then Cosby proceeded to push her hands aside and began feeling her up and down, she said. As she tensed up, Cosby allegedly hissed, “See, you can’t do that. You got to trust me.”
After the “audition” a disoriented Bowman was on Cosby’s circuit, shuttled around to star-studded tennis, golf, and various other fetes. Soon, she was invited to his East 61st Street brownstone in Manhattan, where she said something was slipped in her wine and she awoke hugging porcelain.
“I was only in my panties (which were crammed inside me) and wearing a man’s white T-shirt, and he was looming over me and pulling my hair out of my face so I wouldn’t vomit in it.
“I was numb and limp, and I could barely hold my head up,” she said. “He was saying, ‘You’re OK, you’re all right, you got to wake up now,’ and ‘Come on, snap out of it,’” Bowman said. She knew right then she’d been raped, she said.
Cosby managed to scare the wits out of Bowman, she said, after she fended him off during an attempt to rape her while she was lucid.
Afterward, Bowman says was stashed away inside a Long Island pad paid for out of Cosby’s coffers.
When Cosby allegedly failed at forcing himself onto Bowman during a comedy show in Atlantic City for the last time, she said. He pointed his finger and told her who was boss. “He looked at me as I walked out of the door of his suite, and he put his finger in my face and said, ‘I better never ever see your face or hear your name again,’” she recalled him saying to her. “I was scared out of my mind and I knew my life was in danger. He was capable of anything.”
She would utimately confide in a friend who gave her enough courage to meet with an attorney to file criminal charges but was laughed out of a lawyer’s office, she said. She might as well have accused Mickey Mouse of hijacking a bus loaded with children.
Nobody believed her, not even her agent.
“That’s what happens to rape victims,” she said. “We feel ashamed and disgusted and gross, and the thought of telling anybody and not being believed, and knowing that my body had been violated, was too much.”
Bowman said she is waiting for the moment when Cosby will be treated like any other accused criminal and “answer to what he’s gotten away with for four decades.”
In the alleged Playboy Mansion incident, Cosby’s lawyer shot down the claim that the trio engaged in a boozy billiards game, saying Cosby doesn’t drink. His lawyer wrote in a Memorandum of Points and Authorities filed on December 4, 2014: “it is well known and easily verifiable that Mr. Cosby is a life-long non-drinker.”
The lawyer added that Huth, having failed to sell her story to the tabloids, “engaged in a new opportunistic tactic to take money from events she claims took place in 1974.”
And she only turned to civil court after her “shakedown attempts” were rebuffed, the lawyer wrote.
Before the lawsuit, Huth and Strecker were initially scheming to fetch a six-figure payday from Cosby, the lawyer wrote. The two demanded “increasing amounts, jumping from $100,000 to $250,000,” according to a letter sent to the actor’s longtime lawyer with a deadline to “do the right thing by Judith” by 5 p.m. on November 21, 2014, or they would go public with a lawsuit.
Cosby didn’t pay the sum.
Emails and voicemail calls from The Daily Beast to Strecker and Allred were not immediately returned. Singer also failed to respond to calls and email messages.
Cosby’s lawyers called on the judge to reconsider the fact that Cosby was deprived of his anonymity. Because of this “unlawful disclosure,” Singer wrote in the response papers, Cosby “should not have had to defend this meritless and invalid action in the court or in the media.” The comedian sought to recoup his legal fees to the tune of $33,295.
But the legal tangles are a mere drop in the bucket of allegations by “50-plus” women, Bowman said. She wants the world to finally see the 78-year-old Cosby for who she said he is: not a household name like Cliff Huxtable but a brazen sexual predator.
“Tomorrow Cosby is being deposed with these criminal charges, he’s between a rock and a hard place,” she said.
The hope is that the judge doesn’t get dazzled by Cosby’s celebrity or bow down to his advanced age. “He may or may not go to prison for rape, but there are so many other areas where his legacy could get nailed,” Bowman said, referring to various degrees of malfeasance that could have been committed inside the mansion that would officially soil Cosby’s once good name.
And what started out with her trying to plead for anybody to listen has grown into a collective movement to win back dignity and possibly bring forward more people who are too overcome with guilt after allegedly being groomed and repeatedly violated by Cosby. “I know several women who have reached out to me who told me, ‘I will never, ever go public,’” she said.
Come Cosby’s impending deposition Friday, Bowman is hoping that nobody pulls punches. “We just have to make sure that we get a judge that has a conscience and doesn’t happen to let [Cosby’s] celebrity get to his head,” she said.
Because the statute of limitations has run out in her case, Bowman can’t take Cosby to court herself. But Bowman won’t stop fighting.
“It is ‘we,’ not ‘me,’” she said. “I came out with one intention, and that was to empower one woman,” she added, referring to Andrea Constand, a Temple University staffer who sued Cosby in 2005 for allegedly attacking her and ultimately settled with him out of court for an undisclosed amount. “I wanted to be brave and courageous and not hide and say to her, ‘It happened to me, too.’”
Editor's Note: This story has been amended to clarify the last Cosby encouter with Bowman had taken place in an Atantic City, NJ hotel not his Manhattan apartment.