Wielding his celebrity status and a “sense of invincibility,” Bill Cosby sexually assaulted three teenagers in a string of attacks in 1975 using a “common plan” and clear “intent,” lawyer Nathan Goldberg told jurors Wednesday during opening statements in the long-awaited trial involving accuser Judy Huth.
Cosby, 84, is only facing civil liability for Huth’s claims he forced her into a sex act at the Playboy Mansion when she was 16 years old in 1975, but Goldberg told jurors that they will hear testimony from all three women during the trial now underway in Santa Monica, Calif., and expected to last two weeks.
One of the women has never spoken publicly about her allegation before. She claims she met Cosby at a tennis tournament in Palm Springs in March 1975 when she was 14 years old and was invited to watch live filming of his movie Let’s Do It Again with her family, Goldberg said. With her mother and other relatives accompanying her to the set in downtown Los Angeles, the teen allegedly was attacked after following Cosby into his trailer to help adjust his bow tie, Goldberg said.
“She walks in, and immediately he pounces. The same that he did with Ms. Huth,” Goldberg said in his opening statement. “He grabs her with both his hands and starts slobbering all over her, on her mouth, sticking his tongue down her throat. And she is smelling his cigar breath. She’s trying to push herself out of this embrace and eventually manages to get away.”
Goldberg also revealed that jurors will hear from Margie Shapiro, an accuser who stepped forward in 2015 with allegations Cosby drugged and raped her at the Playboy Mansion in November 1975 after meeting her at a donut shop and inviting her to the set of Mother, Jugs and Speed. She was 19 at the time.
In the case of Huth, Goldberg said jurors would hear her story from her direct testimony on the witness stand and testimony from her friend Donna Samuelson, who was with her the day of her alleged battery. He said both women would describe meeting Cosby for the first time while he was filming Let’s Do It Again in Lacy Park in San Marino, California, meeting up with him again the following Saturday at a tennis club in Hollywood, following him to a nearby house where they played a drinking game over billiards and accompanying him to the Playboy Mansion.
Huth, 64, first sued Cosby in December 2014 with claims Cosby isolated her in a bedroom at Hefner’s mansion, kissed her on the mouth, slid his hand down her pants and used her hand to masturbate himself.
Goldberg said Wednesday that his client immediately reported what happened to Samuelson but was so humiliated and confused by the incident, she decided to bury it for decades. He urged jurors to connect the dots between the three women’s accounts and determine Cosby had “a sense of entitlement” and “no fear” when he allegedly assaulted the women using similar tactics.
Cosby’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, used her opening statement to cast Huth as a greedy opportunist who fabricated her assault story “in order to cash in on a wave of women in 2005 at first and then 2014.” She told jurors Huth attempted to sell her story to the National Enquirer in 2005 around the time fellow accuser Andrea Constand’s allegations against Cosby went public and then filed her lawsuit in 2014 after several more women stepped forward.
Bonjean also said “butler notes” recently unearthed from the Playboy Mansion’s archives show Cosby visited the residence on April 5, 1975, with two unidentified guests, and that the guests remained at the home for nearly 12 hours, drinking tequila sunrise cocktails, enjoying the pool, eating dinner and watching a movie. Bonjean said the evidence will show the guests were Huth and Samuelson. Considering Huth claims her assault happened shortly after lunch, Bonjean urged jurors to consider the lengthy stay. “I agree there’s no typical response to a traumatic event, but partying at the Playboy Mansion for 12 hours after, well, it seems a little inconsistent. You’ll have to decide,” she said. “It’s entirely consistent with no assault.”
In two hours of testimony Wednesday afternoon, Samuelson said Cosby creeped her out by rubbing her shoulders before he allegedly turned his attention to Huth. She said Huth was “distraught” and “crying” and tried to get her to leave the house shortly after the alleged attack, but Samuelson persuaded her stay. “I talked her into staying,” Samuelson testified. “It was selfish of me.”
Huth’s nearly 8-year-old lawsuit was put on hold by Cosby’s two back-to-back Pennsylvania criminal trials related to Constand and the subsequent Covid pandemic. The civil case resumed last year after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned Cosby’s conviction in the Constand case and he walked out of prison a free man.
While Huth initially believed the Lacy Park meeting was in late 1973 or early 1974, when she was 15 years old, she revised her timeline last month after reviewing new evidence provided by both Samuelson and Cosby. She now alleges the assault took place in early 1975, when she was 16 years old.
“We believe that Mr. Cosby will fully be exonerated once the jurors hear the evidence as well as examine the many inconsistent accounts given by Ms. Huth,” Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, said in a Wednesday morning statement.
Cosby has no plans to attend the trial in person and believes jurors will understand the decision given his age, blindness from glaucoma and vulnerability amid rising Covid infections, Wyatt tells Rolling Stone.
Once an A-list star dubbed “America’s Dad,” Cosby has been accused by scores of women of a long list of misdeeds ranging from sexual harassment to battery to rape. Many of his accusers stepped forward for the first time in 2014 with allegations that were too old to prosecute. Cosby denied the allegations and protested when civil lawsuits were settled with women against by his insurer.
Beyond Huth’s case playing out now in Santa Monica, Calif., the disgraced comedian is being sued by actress and visual artist Lili Bernard in federal court in New Jersey. Bernard claims Cosby drugged and raped her at the Trump Taj Mahal casino resort in Atlantic City around August 1990 after they met on the set of The Cosby Show and he offered to help advance her career. A judge has not yet ruled on Cosby’s motion to dismiss the case.