One of Bill Cosby’s alleged victims, Andrea Constand, may finally get her day in court—but what will happen to the at least 50 other women who have accused the actor of sexual assault?
The allegations against “America’s dad” stretch back to the 1960s and ’70s—and in many of the cases, the statute of limitations (which varies from state to state) has already expired. Such is the case even with the most recent accusation against Cosby, which involves a 2008 incident at the Playboy Mansion. Model Chloe Goins told the LAPD that her mind went foggy after Cosby gave her a drink at the Los Angeles bunny ranch—and that when she woke up, she was naked and Cosby was sucking on her toes and masturbating.
While the regular statute of limitations for sexual assault in California is six years from the date of the crime—which would possibly make Goins’s case ineligible for prosecution—as the L.A. Times notes, there may be additional reasons for authorities to round up any potential evidence against Cosby. Police handed the findings of their investigation over to the Los Angeles County District Attorney in October. Even if Cosby is not charged in this case, the investigation into Goins’s allegations can be used if any newer allegations come to light. (According to the L.A. Times, for example, “California law allows alleged victims to testify as witnesses even if their own cases never resulted in charges.”)
The criminal proceedings now underway against Cosby might also help women seeking civil penalties against the former Dr. Huxtable.
Constand and other alleged victims have filed civil suits against Cosby for defamation—essentially, they are saying that Cosby damaged their reputations by claiming that they lied about the alleged sexual assaults. (A judge threw out Cosby’s attempt to dismiss one such lawsuit in October, but the comedian countersued several of the accusers this month.)
The burden of proof in civil lawsuits is far lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases. A successful criminal prosecution in Constand’s case—or, indeed, even the district attorney’s decision that there is enough evidence to bring charges—might be enough to tip a civil suit decidedly in the plaintiff’s favor.
An attorney for some of the accusers—but not Constand—said the charges are “a positive step in its own right and positive step in the civil cases against him.”
“The charges clearly send a message that there is a belief of sufficient evidence to get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt—an even higher standard than in civil court,” said attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represents seven of the women. “This clearly undermines Mr. Cosby’s claim that his encounter with Ms. Constand was consensual.”
Cosby counter-sued the women represented by Cammarata for “malicious, opportunistic and false and defamatory” statements earlier in December.
But Cammarata said he has long been optimistic about his clients’ suit against the actor.
“Each one of them are confident that their good name and reputation will be restored at the end of the day,” he said earlier this month. “They will be found to be the truth-tellers.”