Explainer: A look at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault civil trial

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Eleven months after he was released from prison Bill Cosby, 85, will again be a defendant in a trial on sexual assault charges when a Pennsylvania appeals court threw out his criminal conviction. This time, it will involve events in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s in a civil case in California. A jury has been selected in the coastal city of Santa Monica, California, and hearings in the case will begin on Wednesday and are expected to last two weeks.

Here are the key elements of the case:

The case against Cosby

Judy Huth, 64, said she and a friend met Cosby in a Los Angeles-area park in 1975 when she was 16, while he was filming the movie “Let’s Do It Again” with Sidney Poitier. Days later, Huss’ lawsuit alleges that Cosby made her drink alcohol “as part of the game” and then took her to the Playboy Mansion. There, according to the complaint, he took her to an isolated bedroom, kissed her on the mouth, slid his hand down her pants and used her hand to sexually act on him. Huth files lawsuit against Cosby In 2014, seek financial compensation, pending trial.

Huth also reported the incident to the police, but no criminal charges were brought. The case took eight years to begin due to Cosby’s two criminal trials and delays due to the pandemic. Key witnesses at the trial will include Huth and her friends at the time.

Cosby case

Cosby’s lawyer admitted he met Huth and took her to the Playboy Mansion. This is also shown in an undated photo of the two of them. But they completely deny that any attack took place. They said Hus was actually 18 when the mansion visit took place, which would make any violations significantly less serious under California law. Cosby’s attorneys did not say what evidence they would use to prove this, stressing that the onus is on the plaintiff to prove when the visit took place.

Why Judgment Matters

The case has taken on new significance as one of the few remaining legal battles against Cosby after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the criminal sexual assault conviction against Cosby He was released from prison last June, after his insurance company settled numerous other lawsuits against his will.

Will Cosby appear or testify?

Cosby, who has participated in two long criminal trials, is not required to participate in this trial and has no plans to appear in court. His rep said it was because his glaucoma left him blind. Jurors said during the selection process that they would not let Cosby’s absence affect their verdict, which the court asked. Still, the average lawyer likes to have their clients present, both to give them a face and to show that the client cares and takes the proceedings seriously.

Nor will he appear on the witness stand. Cosby did give a video testimony in the case, but the judge ruled that he would not have to give a second, broader testimony and would not be forced to testify in person.Judge finds Cosby can invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege Against self-incrimination, as he could still be prosecuted for sexual assault in California and other jurisdictions.

Cold reception of the case

The biggest challenge for both parties will be presenting evidence and testimony to the jury based on events from nearly 50 years ago.Numerous Playboy Mansion visitors and others who may have testified are dead, including Playboy magazine founder and former mansion owner Hugh Hefner, although he did testify before his death in 2017. A lawyer for Playboy Enterprises said they were unable to locate visitor records for the mansion. Distant memories must be linked to fragments of photographs, news articles and other archives to refresh memories.

a key change

A major change illustrates the issue of case age Huth told her story weeks before her trial as evidence her lawyers found led them to believe she met Cosby in the 1975 film when she was 16, not in late 1973 or early 1974, when she 15 years old. What they used to come to their conclusion: An outdated photo of Cosby with a beard that Huss remembered he had. Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, called the latest changes an “ambush” that would make it harder to present a defense, but the judge declined to dismiss the case or delay the trial. He did allow Huth to testify at the last minute.


Huss attorney Gloria Allred is nationally known for representing women in high-profile cases like this. But she is not expected to play an active role in the trial, presenting evidence to two colleagues at her firm, Nathan Goldberg and David West. Cosby will be primarily represented by Bonjean.In recent years, the mother of four has made a national name for herself through her positivity for Cosby and R. KellyAlthough her account was recently deleted, she defended both on Twitter as vigorously as she did in court.


A jury of eight women and four men was selected last week. For the jury, the group was young — one member was only 19 years old. That could spoil either way for Cosby. While many said in interviews that they didn’t grow up with his TV shows or stand-up comedies and had no particular respect for him, many also said they paid little attention to the criminal trial or charges against him. .

make a ruling

Compared to Cosby’s criminal prosecutors, the bar for plaintiffs is lower. Jurors will have to go through a trove of evidence to decide whether Cosby acted beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike criminal cases that require unanimous jury consent, a consensus of 9 out of 12 is sufficient.


The Associated Press does not usually identify someone who claims to have been sexually abused, but may do so when the person comes forward publicly, as Huth did.


Follow AP entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton