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5 women sue Bill Cosby for sexual assault and abuse under new NY lookback law

Digital Brief: Dec. 6, 2022 (AM)
Digital Brief: Dec. 6, 2022 (AM) 02:13

(CNN) -- Two former actresses on "The Cosby Show" are among five women who filed a lawsuit against Bill Cosby in New York state court on Monday, accusing him of sexual assault and abuse dating back decades.

The 34-page lawsuit is brought by the actresses Lili Bernard and Eden Tirl as well as Jewel Gittens, Jennifer Thompson and Cindra Ladd. The suit names as defendants Cosby and the media companies NBCUniversal Media, Kaufman Astoria Studios and The Carsey-Werner Company, which together ran "The Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992.

The suit accuses Cosby of assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment and accuses the media companies of negligence.

"Each plaintiff was sexually assaulted and battered by defendant Bill Cosby in the same or similar manner when he used his power, fame, and prestige, including the power, fame and prestige given to him by [the] defendants . . . to misuse his enormous power in such a nefarious, horrific way," the suit states.

"Now, these five Plaintiffs have come forward to stand up for themselves and others, after they were sexually abused and assaulted by Bill Cosby."

In a statement, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt called the lawsuit "frivolous" and denied the allegations.

"As we have always stated and now America see [sic] that this isn't about justice for victims of alleged sexual assault but it's ALL ABOUT MONEY," he wrote in a statement. "We believe that the courts as well as the court of public opinion will follow the rules of law and relieve Mr. Cosby of these alleged accusations. Mr. Cosby continues to vehemently deny all allegation [sic] waged against him and looks forward to defending himself in court."

NBC, Carsey-Warner and Kaufman Astoria did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit was filed under New York's Adult Survivors Act, passed last month, which gives adult survivors of sexual abuse a one-year window to sue their abusers even if the statute of limitations on their claims has expired.

The law mirrors the state's Child Victims Act of 2019, which similarly opened a two-year window for child sex abuse survivors to sue their abusers. That law yielded about 10,600 lawsuits, including a prominent case against Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein. (Prince Andrew denied wrongdoing and agreed to settle the case.)

The idea of the lookback window is that many victims of sexual abuse take years to publicly speak about their traumas, and this law would give them an opportunity to finally have their day in court.

What the lawsuit states

The allegations in Monday's lawsuit mirror longstanding accusations against Cosby, the 85-year-old comedian and actor once known as "America's Dad" for his public persona as an upstanding father figure.

According to the suit, Cosby drugged and raped Bernard, who played Mrs. Minifield on "The Cosby Show," in New Jersey and Nevada in 1990 and at his Manhattan home in 1991. Bernard has previously spoken out about Cosby's alleged abuse and spoke on the steps outside the courthouse at his criminal trials.

Tirl, who had a small role as a police officer on "The Cosby Show," alleges that Cosby inappropriately touched her without consent in his dressing room in 1989. She also alleges that Cosby said he "owned" NBC, the lawsuit states.

Gittens alleges Cosby invited her to his Manhattan home in 1989 or 1990 to discuss working on "The Cosby Show" but then drugged her and sexually assaulted her.

Thompson alleges Cosby made her inappropriately touch him without her consent at his Manhattan home in 1988 when she was 18. Ladd alleges Cosby drugged her and raped her in 1969.

In 2014 and 2015, more than 50 women came forward with similar allegations that he gave them drugs to incapacitate them, assaulted them and then used his wealth and stature in the entertainment industry to pressure them to remain silent.

He was charged in 2015 with the sexual assault of Andrea Constand and -- after a first trial ended with a hung jury -- was convicted in 2018 in the first major trial of the #MeToo movement. He was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison and was released in 2021 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction, saying his due process rights were violated.

Earlier this year, a Los Angeles jury found Cosby liable in a civil case brought by Judy Huth, a woman who said he sexually assaulted her as a teenager in the 1970s.

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