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Judge Finds Enough Evidence For Cosby To Go To Trial On Sex Assault

By Joseph Ax

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday ordered entertainer Bill Cosby to stand trial on sexual assault charges over allegations that he drugged and assaulted a woman in 2004.

The ruling came after a preliminary hearing that Cosby, 78, attended in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in which witnesses testified about statements that Cosby and his accuser, Andrea Constand, gave to police in 2005.

In court, Cosby responded with “thank you” when Judge Elizabeth McHugh announced her decision. She wished him luck.

Constand, a former basketball coach at Cosby’s Temple University alma mater, is the only woman whose accusations of sexual assault have resulted in criminal charges against Cosby.

Once one of the most beloved U.S. entertainers, Cosby has been hit by a wave of sexual assault allegations from more than 50 women, although most of the cases are too old to be prosecuted. He has denied ever assaulting anyone.

Constand told police she was attacked as she lay on a sofa “paralyzed” by drugs the entertainer had given her, said a former detective reading from a transcript of Constand’s police interview.

Cosby told her the pills would help her relax and “take the edge off.” So Constand swallowed the pills, added a sip of wine and told the comedian that she trusted him, the former detective said.

Less than an hour later, according to Constand, Cosby sexually assaulted her as she lay incapacitated by the drugs she had taken, the former detective said.

Cosby’s own 2005 interview with police in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, where the purported 2004 assault took place, also was introduced as evidence.

Cosby admitted giving Constand 1-1/2 pills of the antihistamine Benadryl to relax her, Cheltenham Police Chief John Norris testified.

Cosby said Constand never told him to stop and was fully conscious during what he called the “petting” encounter, which he said involved fondling of genitals, Norris testified.

The hearing followed Sunday’s Associated Press report of new revelations about Cosby from his 2005 and 2006 sworn depositions, including his admission that he gave drugs to a 19-year-old woman before having sex.
Photo: Comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for a preliminary hearing related to assault charges, May 24, 2016, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S.. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter/POOL

George Washington University Rescinds Cosby’s Doctorate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. capital’s George Washington University is rescinding comedian Bill Cosby’s honorary doctorate because of the allegations of sexual assault against him, its president said on Monday.

The Washington college’s practice has been not to pull a degree because of information that surfaced after it was awarded, but the allegations have distressed alumni and students who have been sexually assaulted, President Steven Knapp said.

“I have therefore decided that the university will rescind Mr. Cosby’s honorary degree,” he said in a statement on the school’s website.

Cosby, 78, who personified the model family man in his hit 1980s television series “The Cosby Show,” was charged in Pennsylvania last month with sexually assaulting a woman after plying her with drugs and alcohol in 2004.

Cosby and his lawyers have acknowledged marital infidelity on his part but have denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.

USA Today newspaper reported last week that about 23 schools out of some 60 have rescinded Cosby’s honorary degrees.

U.S. Representative Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, and several colleagues introduced a bill on Friday that would strip Cosby of his Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor.

More than 50 women have publicly accused the star of sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back decades.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Photo: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby (C) arrives for his arraignment on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Makela

Donald Trump Attacks Hillary Using Old Photo Of Her With Bill Cosby

Donald Trump is fighting back against Hillary Clinton by dredging up as many old scandals as he can think of — whether they have anything to do with her nor not. His latest Web video is a response of sorts to the Democratic frontrunner’s condemnations of his sexist comments on the campaign trail.

“Hillary and her friends,” Trump writes in the video’s caption text. The video awkwardly splices sound bites culled from various Hillary speeches over the years: “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights… once and for all… let’s keep fighting for opportunity and dignity.”

All the while, images are shown of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; sexting-scandal-ridden former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s close aide Huma Abedin; and to top it off, an old photo of Hillary Clinton campaigning alongside Bill Cosby during her 2000 race for senator from New York.

Hillary and her friends!

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

“True defender of women’s rights,” the on-screen text says, in all capital letters. “Trump. Make America Great Again!”

Cosby was recently charged in Pennsylvania with aggravated indecent assault, for an alleged sexual assault upon former college basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004. Dozens of other women have spoken up publicly over the past two years, accusing Cosby of sexually assaulting them over the past several decades, usually by slipping drugs into their drinks. In a deposition released last year from Constand’s 2005 civil suit, Cosby admitted to giving illegal drugs to women before he had sex with them, though he did not admit to the drug use being nonconsensual.

In 2000, back when Cosby campaigned for Clinton, there was no public awareness of the allegations against him. In fact, Cosby received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, conferred upon him by President George W. Bush.

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Lowell, Massachusetts January 4, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Cosby Faces Big Financial Threat From Civil Lawsuits: Legal Experts

By David Ingram, Noeleen Walder and John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Civil lawsuits accusing Bill Cosby of sex abuse and defamation could do major damage to the entertainer’s wealth, regardless of how a criminal prosecution plays out, lawyers who have handled similar cases said on Thursday.

Cosby, who has been accused by more than 50 women of sexually abusing them in incidents dating back decades, was charged in suburban Philadelphia on Wednesday in the only criminal case he has faced. The actor and comedian is charged with aggravated indecent assault against one of the women, a second-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

The financial assets of the entertainer, who personified the model American family man in a long-running hit television show, are more at risk from at least seven ongoing civil suits that have been filed or joined by 13 women.

Cosby, 78, has denied the criminal and civil allegations. He has sued some of his accusers for defamation, and his lawyers have questioned their motives, suggesting they are after money.

A loss in the civil litigation could be very costly for Cosby, whose career made him one of the wealthiest people in the U.S. entertainment industry, several plaintiffs lawyers not involved in the suits said. Jury awards in cases where a person has claimed sex abuse or defamation can run into the tens of millions of dollars, not including his legal fees. “This is going to be enormously expensive for Cosby,” said Paul Callan, a New York lawyer who successfully represented the estate of retired American football player O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife in a civil case after Simpson was acquitted in her killing.

PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE

In a statement on Wednesday, a lawyer for Cosby, Monique Pressley, denounced the charges as unjustified and said Cosby would be exonerated. A spokesman for Cosby declined to comment on Thursday.

The allegations against Cosby – with so many accusers claiming they were drugged before he allegedly sexually assaulted them – mean he is particularly vulnerable to civil punitive damages, the lawyers said. Punitive awards are meant to punish and deter a defendant, while compensatory awards cover actual costs of plaintiffs.

Various media estimates have put Cosby’s net worth at between $380 million and $450 million in recent years. His ability to pay is likely to be a factor in a civil award or settlement, lawyers said.

“Any jury assessing this starts with, what amount of money punishes him given his net worth?” said Brad Edwards, a Florida lawyer who represents sex abuse plaintiffs. “Even if you said $20 million, you’re talking about a fraction of his net worth,” he added, so a jury could go even higher in determining a punitive award.

Big U.S. jury awards have to survive review by judges. Some states cap awards, and a punitive award generally must be less than 10 times the compensatory award.

In court papers filed on Dec. 14 in one suit, Cosby’s lawyers said women suing Cosby in Massachusetts are “engaged in a campaign to assassinate Mr. Cosby’s reputation and character” in order to “extract financial gain.”

LOWER STANDARD OF PROOF

The mounting allegations harmed Cosby’s finances long before the criminal charge this week.

Television networks have pulled reruns of the once wildly successful sitcom “The Cosby Show.” Streaming video service Netflix Inc canceled a planned special featuring Cosby in 2014, and the network NBC, which Cosby once tried to buy in 1992 as part of a group of investors, canceled plans for a new television show featuring him. Several stops on Cosby’s early 2015 comedy tour, titled “Far From Finished,” were canceled, while others attracted protesters and hecklers.

In July, Walt Disney Co removed a bust of Cosby from its Hollywood Studios theme park near Orlando, Florida.

Two of the pending civil suits allege that Cosby abused women. They were filed in California. Five others filed in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania say Cosby defamed women by denying what they said publicly. One suit has seven plaintiffs. Plaintiffs in civil suits have a lower standard of proof to meet than prosecutors do in criminal cases.

If Cosby loses a defamation case it could be just as costly as the loss of a sex abuse case because a jury would see defamation as “revictimization,” said John Manly, a California lawyer who represents sex abuse plaintiffs. “For a trial lawyer, it’s a distinction without a difference,” he said.

Cosby could ask that the civil suits be put on hold pending a criminal trial, but judges might not agree, in part because Cosby countersued some accusers, said Edwards, the Florida lawyer.

In July, a New York jury rejected allegations by a woman that the chief executive of her former investment firm had assaulted her, but the jury still awarded her $18 million after agreeing she had been sexually harassed, retaliated against and defamed.

A win in the criminal case would not mean Cosby is off the hook. Manly, the California lawyer, said it could even add to public outrage and prompt a jury to award large damages.

If his financial future were under serious threat from the civil cases, Cosby may not find that bankruptcy court offers much protection. Court judgments based on intentional actions do not get wiped away like other debts, the lawyers said.

(Reporting by David Ingram, Noeleen Walder and John McCrank in New York; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Martin Howell)

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby (C) arrives with attorney Monique Pressley (R) for his arraignment on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Makela