Judy Huth’s lawsuit against Bill Cosby goes to court

Bill Cosby speaks to reporters outside his home on June 30, 2021 in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Bill Cosby has been released from prison after a court overturned his sexual assault conviction. (Photo by Michael Abbott/Getty Images)

Bill Cosby speaks to reporters outside his home on June 30, 2021 in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Bill Cosby has been released from prison after a court overturned his sexual assault conviction.

Jury selection began Tuesday in a California civil lawsuit against actors and comedians Bill Cosby for the alleged sexual assault of a young girl at the Playboy Mansion in the 1970s.

Cosby has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct by at least 60 women. However, Huth’s lawsuit is the first civil sexual assault case against Cosby to go to court.

Who is the plaintiff and what are the allegations?

plaintiff Judy hat originally filed her case in 2014, but the case was stayed while Cosby’s criminal trial in Pennsylvania continued. Huth is now 64 years old; She claims Cosby, now 84, groped her in 1974 while the two were at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. Huth is now suing Cosby for sexual assault and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Cosby has denied all allegations.

According to the complaint, Huth and her 16-year-old friend were walking through a park when they realized a film was being made. Huth says that when she and her friend stopped, Cosby approached her and invited her to sit in a director’s chair while they talked. Cosby reportedly invited both girls (who revealed their real ages at the time) to his local tennis club the following week. Huth says that she and her friend Cosby accepted his invitation and over the next week they played pool with Cosby at the club. According to Huth, she “had to have a beer every time Cosby won a game of pool.”

“After the girls were served several alcoholic drinks,” the complaint continued. “Cosby told them he had a surprise for them.” Cosby is said to have led the girls to the Playboy Mansion. According to Huth, Cosby told the two teenagers that “if any of the Playboy bunnies asks their ages, they should say they’re 19.” While at the Playboy Mansion, Huth said she returned from a trip to the bathroom to find Cosby sitting on a bed. According to the complaint:

He asked her to sit next to him. He then proceeded to sexually harass her by attempting to put his hand down her pants, then taking her hand in his and performing a sexual act on himself without her consent.

This traumatic incident caused the plaintiff psychological damage and anguish at such a tender age that has caused her significant problems throughout her life since the incident. She has suffered significant and lasting damage as a direct and immediate result of the incident.

Huth initially claimed she was 15 when the alleged incident occurred, but later changed her complaint to say that she was in fact 16 at the time.

Cosby has denied the allegations, but in court documents he admitted to socializing with Huth at the Playboy Mansion. Through attorneys, Cosby has denied that Huth was a minor at the time.

What has happened so far in this case?

Huth amended her complaint, which originally claimed the battery occurred in 1974. Now Huth claims it happened in 1975. Cosby’s attorney Jennifer Bonjean has said publicly that the change would amount to an “ambush”.

Meanwhile, Huth has attributed the change to making a mistake in the timeline, which she noticed after Cosby submitted documents.

In an email statement to Law&Crime, Judy Huth’s attorney Gloria Alled specifically responding to claims of an ambush:

This is not an ambush trial, the defense explained to the press. It’s an evidentiary trial. We believe the defense was aware of the fact that the Playboy Mansion incident occurred in 1975, when Judith Huth was 16, before we notified the defense in a court filing in early May. We believe they are upset that they intended to ambush Mrs Huth on the witness stand by proving that the event at the villa could not have taken place when she was 15 and we messed up their plans.

The trial will continue before an LA Superior Court judge Craig Karlan. Huth originally requested that the case be tried as a trial (without a jury), but Cosby disagreed. The trial will be heard by a 12-person jury, and 9 votes are required for a verdict.

What do we expect at the negotiation?

The process is expected to take two weeks. Both Huth and the friend mentioned in the ad are expected to testify. Although Cosby could change his mind, he is not currently expected to testify or attend the trial. Nor is he legally obliged to do so.

How does Cosby’s criminal case relate to this civil lawsuit?

Huth’s civil trial was adjourned to allow Cosby’s criminal trial in Pennsylvania to proceed. In 2018, Cosby was convicted of substance abuse and harassment of a Temple University employee Andrea Constand and sentenced to prison. However, the conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2021 when the court found that the former district attorney’s testimony constituted a binding non-prosecution agreement with Cosby.

Kevin Steele, the prosecutor who won the criminal case against Cosby, appealed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling to the United States Supreme Court. In March 2022, the judges declined to hear Steele’s appeal without comment. Given that Cosby’s conviction was overturned and the underlying prosecution found inadmissible, the case is unlikely to have any direct legal implications for Huth’s civil proceedings. It remains to be seen to what extent the incident will be taken into account in the process.

Notably, Cosby’s conviction was not overturned either because of flaws in the trial itself or because of newly uncovered evidence of factual innocence. Rather, the court found that the actor should not have been prosecuted because the state had promised not to bring charges against him. Such an outcome is extremely rare, as prosecutors do not often make public statements about decisions not to press charges.

[Image via Michael Abbott/Getty Images]

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James Brien

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