SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A jury found Tuesday that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted Judy Huth in 1975 when, as a 16-year-old girl, she accepted his invitation to join him at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
The jury’s decision again tarnished the reputation of a man whose status as one of America’s most beloved entertainers faded as dozens of women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct.
As part of its decision, the jury awarded Ms. Huth †500,000 in compensatory damages, but refused to award punitive damages.
As well as its importance to Ms Huth, who first came forward with her allegations in 2014, the verdict provided a measure of satisfaction to many of the women who have accused Mr Cosby of similar abuse for years. The Huth case offered them a second chance at public justification for their accounts after Cosby’s criminal conviction in the Andrea Constand case was overturned by a fair trial appeals committee last year.
Many of the plaintiffs were barred from filing their own lawsuits because they had failed to come forward at the time they said Mr Cosby had assaulted them. But the lawsuit of Mrs. Huth could be prosecuted because the jury agreed that she was a minor at the time, and California law extends the time frame within which people who were molested as children can file a civil claim.
After the verdict was announced and the jury dismissed, Ms. Huth hugged her lawyers.
“I feel good, I feel justified.” said Mrs Huth.
The verdict was a damaging setback for Mr Cosby, who on release from nearly three years in prison had promoted the appeals court decision as a full exemption, an exaggeration now overshadowed by a finding that paints a picture of him as a person. who used his celebrity to take advantage of women.
Mr Cosby has consistently denied all women’s stories, claiming that if he had sexual encounters with anyone, it had always been by mutual consent. He invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and did not attend the trial. But parts of his statement, videotaped several years ago, were played to the judges and they heard him say he couldn’t remember ever meeting Mrs. Huth.
The 12-member jury was not unanimous in its findings, voting 9 to 3 to award Ms Huth the compensatory damages. After the jury was fired, a juror, Aldo Reyna, 25, explained why he decided in her favor.
“Given the time frame, you have to take someone’s word for it,” he said in an interview. “You either believe them or you don’t. I believed her in the stands.”
Jennifer Bonjean, an attorney for Mr. Cosby, claimed some victory in the jury’s decision not to award punitive damages.
“We do feel some relief,” she said. “Finding no punitive damages was a major victory for us.”
A Cosby’s spokesman Andrew Wyatt said the entertainer would appeal.
“Mr. Cosby will continue to maintain his innocence,” Mr. Wyatt said in a statement, “and will fight vigorously against these false charges so that he can resume the pursuit of happiness, joy and laughter in the world.”
The jury, which began deliberating Thursday, heard 10 days of testimony in which Ms Huth, now 64, told how a chance meeting with Mr Cosby while filming a movie at a local park eventually sent her to an isolated bedroom in the Playboy mansion. In often emotional testimonials, she described how a famous man she had once admired, whose comedy records her father collected, tried to put his hand down her pants and then forced her to perform a sexual act with him.
“I had my eyes closed at the time,” Ms Huth said in the courtroom. “I was scared to death.”
Afterwards, she said, she was “crazy — I felt cheated, fooled. I was abandoned. I was hurt.”
The Playboy encounter took place just days after Mrs. Huth and a friend, Donna Samuelson, met Mr. Cosby while he was filming a scene for a movie, “Let’s Do It Again,” in a park in San Marino, California, not far from their home. houses.
Mrs. Huth and Mrs. Samuelson testified that a few days later Mr. Cosby invited them to his tennis club and then to a house where he was staying, where they played billiards, gave them alcohol and made them follow him in their car to the Playboy Mansion, where he told them to say they were 19 if someone asked their age.
Mr Cosby, 84, denied Ms Huth’s allegations, with his attorney Jennifer Bonjean describing her account as “a complete fabrication”. Although the jury was shown photographs of Mr. Cosby with Mrs. Huth at the Playboy Mansion, taken by Mrs. Samuelson, Mr. Cosby said in the statement that he takes photos with many people and his attorney suggested that Mrs. Huth was coordinating the attack on and with her friend to make money.
Ms Bonjean pointed out that Ms Huth, by her own admission, had spent hours at the mansion after what Ms Huth had described as heartless molestation, swimming in the pool and ordering cocktails. And she disputed Ms. Huth’s explanation as to why she hadn’t spoken about the episode in the months and years that followed, questioning whether Ms. Huth had really suppressed a terrible experience or if she was simply coming forward with an accusation to join others. who reported wrongdoing by Mr Cosby at the time.
Ms. Huth said she simply buried the traumatic experience for years.
“It’s like garbage,” she said. “You dig a hole and throw garbage in it.”
The jury sided with Mrs Huth. But the decision came after lengthy deliberations, punctuated by multiple questions from jurors seeking advice on how to interpret the language of questions on a verdict sheet given to them as a guideline. The process became even more complicated when the jury foreman had to be excused after the second day of deliberation. The panel, which reported it was close to a verdict on Friday, had to hire a deputy and was told to start over.
As the trial progressed, Mr. Wyatt was increasingly criticized by the judge and one of Ms. Huth’s lawyers, Gloria Allred. Mr. Wyatt said the judge had unfairly favored Ms. Huth and he objected when Ms. Allred made an admission of Juneteenth in court and released a statement that she exploited the memory of “enslaved people” even as she assisted in a lawsuit against Mr. Wyatt. Cosby, whom he called “Black America’s Icon.”
After the verdict, Mrs. Allred Mrs. Huth with enduring a long legal battle.
“She has shown so much courage and made so many sacrifices to get justice,” said Ms. Allred. “She won real change. She fought Bill Cosby and won.”
Ms Huth’s lawsuit was the first civil case in which Mr Cosby was charged with sexual assault. He had been sued by other women, many of whom said he had defamed them after his legal team dismissed their allegations as fiction. Eleven civil cases have ended in settlements, with 10 of the settlements agreed upon by Cosby’s former insurance company over his objections, its spokesman said.
The case of Mrs. Huth was largely suspended while Pennsylvania prosecutors were prosecuting Mr. Cosby on criminal charges that he killed Ms. Constand, a former Temple University employee, had been drugged and sexually assaulted.
A remaining civil suit was filed last year by Lili Bernard, an actor and visual artist, who accused him of drugging and sexually abusing her at an Atlantic City hotel in 1990, when she was 26. mr. Cosby has denied her account, and the case is still in its early stages.
Ms. Bernard was one of several women who accused Mr Cosby of sexually abusing them and who, on some days, attended the Santa Monica trial in support of Ms Huth. She praised the verdict, saying it “goes way beyond Cosby survivors.”
“Judy Huth is a hero!” she said. “Her arrival inspired others to find their voice.”