Jurors at a civil trial on Tuesday found that US comedian Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975, reported The Associated Press. The Los Angeles County jury delivered the verdict in favour of Judy Huth, who is now 64, and awarded her $500,000. Jurors found that Cosby intentionally caused harmful sexual contact with Huth, that he reasonably believed she was under 18, and that his conduct was driven by unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a minor.
Cosby met Huth and her high school friend on a Southern California film set in April of 1975, then took them to the Playboy Mansion a few days later, his attorney agreed. Huth’s friend Donna Samuelson, a key witness, took photos at the mansion of Huth and Cosby, which loomed large at the trial.
The jurors’ decision is a major legal defeat for the 84-year-old entertainer once hailed as ‘America’s Dad’. It comes almost eleven months after he was freed from prison when a Pennsylvania appeals court threw out his criminal conviction for sexual assault. Huth’s lawsuit was one of the last remaining legal claims against him after his insurer settled many others against his will.
Cosby did not attend the trial or testify in person, but short clips from the 2015 video deposition were played for jurors, in which he denied any sexual contact with Huth. He continues to deny the allegation through his attorney and publicist.
Jurors had already reached conclusions on nearly every question on their verdict form, including whether Cosby abused Huth and whether she deserved damages, after two days of deliberations on Friday. But the jury foreperson could not serve further because of a personal commitment, and the panel had to start deliberating from scratch with an alternate juror on Monday.
Huth testified that in a bedroom adjacent to a game room where the three had been hanging out, Cosby attempted to put his hand down her pants, then exposed himself and forced her to perform a sex act.
Huth filed her lawsuit in 2014, saying that her son turning 15 the age she initially remembered being when she went to the mansion and a wave of other women accusing Cosby of similar acts brought fresh trauma over what she had been through as a teenager.
Huth’s attorney Nathan Goldberg told the jury of nine women and three men during closing arguments Wednesday that my client deserves to have Mr Cosby held accountable for what he did. Each of you knows in your heart that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted Miss Huth, Goldberg said.
A majority of jurors apparently agreed, giving Huth a victory in a suit that took eight years and overcame many hurdles just to get to trial.
The biggest challenge, for both sides, was to present evidence and testimony to a jury based on events from nearly 50 years ago. Many Playboy Mansion visitors and others who may have testified are dead, including Playboy Magazine founder and former mansion owner Hugh Hefner, though he did give a deposition before his 2017 death.
(With inputs from Th Associated Press)