Cosby Litigation Cases Both Broad and Complex
In any given week, teams of high-priced lawyers fan out across the country to defend Bill Cosby amid a cascade of sexual assault allegations, defamation claims and insurance disputes.
The disgraced TV star is spending millions in a frenzied bid not just to stay out of prison but to salvage what is left of his reputation. Legal experts say he has nothing to lose.
“This thing’s going to be tied up in litigation anyway, so you might as well look like you’re the aggrieved party,” said Professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “The best defense is a good offense.”
The biggest threat facing the comedian is the lone criminal case against him, involving allegations he drugged and sexually violated Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home more than a decade ago. Cosby, 78, could get 10 years in prison if convicted.
Cosby’s lawyers had argued that the case against him should not go forward because of a 2005 deal in which former Montgomery County, Pa;, prosecutor Bruce Cantor pledged not to prosecute him over allegations of sexual assault by Constand.
Unless he can convince the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that Cantor made a binding promise that Cosby would never be prosecuted, the comic and his cadre of high-priced litigators will be back in court Tuesday for his long-delayed preliminary hearing.
Cosby also is contending with two sexual assault lawsuits, two disputes over whether his homeowner policies should cover his legal expenses, and a dozen defamation claims brought by women who came forward too late to sue over sexual assault but say they were smeared by Cosby or his representatives.
The criminal and civil cases have generated countless spinoff battles over such things as whether Cosby’s wife can be questioned at a deposition and whether Constand’s recent cooperation with police violated the confidentiality agreement surrounding the financial settlement she reached with Cosby in 2006.
The lawsuits stretch from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh to Worcester, Massachusetts, not too far from where Cosby and his wife, Camille, have a home. In the past two years alone, some two dozen Cosby lawyers have done his bidding in a variety of courts, arguing in front of local magistrates, a state supreme court and federal appeals court judges.
His attorneys have flown from California to Philadelphia, for example, for a brief hearing over who can see the file from Constand’s original 2005 police complaint. And they have gathered from Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia to pack the defense table for the so-far unsuccessful bid to get the criminal charges thrown out over the purported non-prosecution agreement.
“I’m sure he’s angry that he thought he made a deal with someone … and then all of a sudden the whole thing blows up on him and his whole reputation is ruined,” said celebrity lawyer Larry R. Feldman of Los Angeles, who is not involved in the Cosby case but represented a 13-year-old who sued Michael Jackson. “I’m not worried about him financially, but nobody at this stage of his life and his career, I’m sure, wants to be defending these types of claims.”