Jury finds Cosby sexually abused teen girl at Playboy Mansion in 1970s
A Santa Monica jury sided with a Riverside County woman Tuesday, finding that comedian Bill Cosby sexually abused her when she was a teenager at the Playboy Mansion in the 1970s, awarding her $500,000 in damages.
Attorneys for Judy Huth, 64, of Canyon Lake, said Cosby fondled her and forced her to perform a sex act on him while visiting the mansion in 1975 when she was just 16 years old. Cosby’s attorneys, meanwhile, denied any wrongdoing and pointed to inconsistencies in Huth’s story, including a recent change in the year she claimed the attack happened.
The eight-woman, four-man jury awarded Huth the $500,000 damages for emotional distress. But the panel did not find that the comedian was liable for any punitive damages, which could have sent the total amount soaring.
The jury deliberated for roughly four days, announcing late Friday they had reached a partial verdict on all but one issue — relating to the issue of punitive damages against Cosby. But before Superior court Judge Craig Karlan could even read a partial verdict in the trial, he instead had to dismiss the jury for the weekend because of a hard closure time for the Santa Monica Courthouse.
As a result, the jury had to come back Monday and begin its deliberations anew with one alternate member, because Karlan had earlier agreed to allow one juror to be dismissed after Friday due to a prior commitment.
With the alternate juror in place, the jury began deliberating again, failing to reach a verdict on Monday, then hearing brief arguments from attorneys Tuesday morning on legal issues apparently relating to the same problematic question regarding the issue of punitive damages.
On Tuesday afternoon, the jury indicated it was having trouble reaching a verdict on the punitive damages question, but after being sent back for further discussions, it announced a short time later that it had reached a decision.
During the nearly two-week trial, attorneys for Huth said Cosby — who is now 84 and legally blind — assaulted her in a game room at the mansion. Attorneys said Cosby escorted Huth and her then-17-year-old friend, Donna Samuelson, to the mansion after he met them while in the area to film the movie “Let’s Do It Again” with Jimmie Walker and Sidney Poitier.
The case was the first sex-abuse civil trial against Cosby to reach a jury. Cosby did not attend any of the Santa Monica trial.
Cosby’s attorneys staunchly denied any wrongdoing by the comedian and worked to poke holes in Huth’s version of events. They noted in particular that Huth and Samuelson spent as many as 12 hours at the Playboy Mansion after the alleged assault. They also argued that Huth originally claimed the attack happened in 1974 when she was 15, then changed her story to say it occurred a year later.
They also pointed to testimony suggesting that Huth and Samuelson claimed to have played the video game Donkey Kong while at the mansion — a game that didn’t exist until the 1980s. Huth’s attorneys insisted the women didn’t remember exactly what game they were playing.
Huth eventually reported her allegations against Cosby to the Los Angeles Police Department, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges because the statute of limitations had passed.
Huth was able to bring the civil suit under a California law allowing adults who say they were victims of sexual abuse as minors but repressed what happened to them for years, to pursue such cases.
Cosby was previously convicted in a retrial in Pennsylvania of allegations that he drugged and molested Temple University employee Andrea Constand. He was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison, but that state’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction last June after finding that Cosby had obtained a nonprosecution agreement from a prior prosecutor.
The U.S. Supreme Court in March rejected a request from Pennsylvania prosecutors to review the state Supreme Court decision. The criminal case had put the Huth civil case on hold.
Huth contends she, Samuelson, and Cosby went to a game room at the Playboy Mansion that had an adjoining bedroom. Samuelson even snapped a photo of Huth and Cosby together in the room, and the image was shown repeatedly to jurors during the trial.
According to Huth, while she was alone with Cosby, the comedian began kissing her and tried to put his hands down her pants. He then allegedly lowered his own pants and forced her to perform a sex act on him.
Her attorney, Nathan Goldberg, said Huth repressed what happened for years until other women began speaking out against Cosby in 2014. She filed her lawsuit against Cosby in December 2014.
Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean raised questions about the allegations, suggesting the emotional trauma Huth claims to have suffered stemmed from other events in her life. She said the sudden change in the date of the alleged attack was also evidence of “fabrication.”
During the trial, a videotaped deposition of Cosby taken in 2015 was played for the jury. In that testimony, Cosby denied assaulting Huth, said he didn’t recall meeting her, and denied that he would ever engage in sexual activity with an underage girl.
Countering the defense argument that Huth and Samuelson remained at the mansion after the alleged attack, Goldberg insisted Huth was crying after the assault and wanted to leave, but Samuelson convinced her to stay, suggesting she would feel better after taking a swim. Samuelson testified that Huth was crying and was upset, but she did not want to call the police.