For all the rape allegations swirling around Bill Cosby lately, there hadn't been a new lawsuit against him—until now. As the LA Times reported late Tuesday, a 55-year-old woman is claiming in court that the comedian molested her when she was a teenager 40 years ago.
According to the complaint, Judy Huth was 15 when she accidentally stumbled on a movie set with a 16-year-old friend in 1974. Cosby allegedly invited the girls back to his tennis club to play pool that Saturday and Huth was apparently instructed to drink a beer every time she lost a game to the much older man.
Later, the three went to the Playboy Mansion, where Cosby told the girls to say they were 19 if asked. Huth says at one point that she emerged from the bathroom to find Cosby sitting on a bed. She claims he asked her to sit down and then attempted "to put his hand down her pants." After that, he took Huth's hand and performed "a sexual act" on himself.
Nearly a dozen women have come forward in recent weeks to say Cosby assaulted them, but the actor himself hasn't responded, except for a shaking of his head in a now-infamous NPR interview. This lawsuit makes keeping silent (or hiding behind statements from lawyers and spokespeople) a lot more difficult. Then again, Cosby might end up settling out of court, which means the public will never find out the details.
That's exactly what happened the last time Cosby was sued, after all. In 2004, a Temple University staffer named Andrea Constand claimed Cosby drugged and fondled her. District Attorney Bruce Castor said there was "insufficient credible and admissible evidence" for a criminal charge, which led to Constand's putting together a civil suit. After she and her lawyers found 13 other women willing to testify about Cosby's patterns of abuse, the actor chose to settle out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Legally, Cosby is backed up by Marty Singer, whom the New York Times dubbed "the guard dog to the stars" in a 2011 profile. So far, Singer has only said the women's claims are "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories," and that "lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day." The lawyer's normal line is that stars are frequently subject to scrutiny and schemes by people looking to get rich. "I really believe Charlie Sheen is a victim," he told the Times.
Even if this lawsuit gets tossed—or is settled as a civil matter—it will likely be difficult for Cosby's career to recover. Although his mostly elderly audience in Melbourne, Florida, gave him a standing ovation at his recent performance there, the public as a whole hasn't been as forgiving. Even the comics Cosby has inspired, who are naturally prone to defending him, appear to be admitting that the man's legend is crumbling. In a recent interview with New York magazine, Chris Rock noted: "It's a weird year for comedy. We lost Robin, we lost Joan, and we kind of lost Cosby."
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