A civil jury found that Bill Cosby sexually abused Judy Huth in 1975 when she was a 16-year-old, ordering him to pay $500,000.
The verdict ruled in Huth’s favor, which her attorney, Gloria Allred, hailed as a win toward “real change,” although no punitive compensation was awarded.
Huth, now 64, accused Cosby of luring her and a friend to the mansion a few days after meeting them in a park. She alleged that Cosby got her alone in a bedroom, pulled down his sweatpants and then grabbed her hand and used it to masturbate himself, forcing her into a sexual act.
“I was elated,” Huth said outside the courthouse, reacting to the verdict and telling reporters that she is grateful for the jury. “It’s been so many years, so many tears, it’s just a long time coming.”
Allred praised Huth, speaking to reporters outside of the courthouse in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday afternoon. “The late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said, ‘Real change, enduring change happens one step at a time,’” Allred stated. “Today, our client won real change because she fought Bill Cosby one step at a time for over seven-and-a-half years. She proved with the jury’s verdict that Mr. Cosby did sexually assault her when she was a minor, and that he should be held and was held accountable for what he did to her.”
Allred noted that the case marks the first to go to trial under the Child Victims Act, which protects adult survivors of child sex abuse to come forward and hold their abuser accountable years later. “She or he may come forward years later, and they will have a right to do so,” the attorney and women’s rights activist said outside court.
Cosby’s team appeared to be pleased with the outcome. When the verdict was read with no punitive damages found, Cosby’s spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, smiled in the gallery and his lawyers were gleeful as they exited the courtroom.
In a statement issued to the media, following the verdict, Cosby’s spokesperson said, in part, “We have always maintained that Judy Huth, Gloria Allred and their cohorts fabricated these false accusations, in order to force Mr. Cosby to finance their racist mission against successful and accomplished Black Men in America.” The statement continued, “Mr. Cosby continues to maintain his innocence and will vigorously fight these false accusations, so that he can get back to bringing the pursuit of happiness, joy and laughter to the world.”
The jury found that Cosby did intend to cause a harmful or offensive contact with Huth and that “sexually offensive contact” resulted, while also finding that Hugh was “harmed” by Cosby’s conduct. The jury concluded that any “normal person, without hesitation” would have been “disturbed, irritated, offended or injured” by Cosby’s conduct. Nine jurors voted that they agreed that Cosby’s conduct was motivated by an “unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a minor,” while three jurors did not agree.
The trial centered on the testimony of Huth and her friend, Donna Samuelson, as well as two other women who alleged that Cosby had also sexually assaulted them in 1975.
The verdict came down after nearly three days of deliberations, and the jury having to restart those deliberations from scratch when a juror was excused from the case, due to a scheduling conflict. The jury repeatedly asked questions, and was stuck on whether the case rose to the level of triggering punitive damages. Amid that process, Huth’s team suggested a partial verdict, while Cosby’s team asked for a mistrial — marking their third separate request for a mistrial, all of which were denied by Judge Craig Karlan.
Last Friday, the jury nearly reached a verdict, but had to start all over with their deliberations on Monday morning, when the foreperson was excused from the case and replaced with an alternate. The foreperson had said on Friday that the jurors had reached agreement on eight of the nine questions they were asked to decide. Judge Karlan initially said he would take a partial verdict on Friday afternoon, but changed his mind when a sheriff’s deputy informed him that the courthouse would close within a few minutes. On Monday, Judge Karlan informed both sides that he put much thought into his decision, and instructed the jury to “disregard” their deliberations from the week prior and start all over again, saying, “I have faith in our jury system…It doesn’t feel right to rush a verdict on such an important case.”
The jury had trouble reaching an agreement over the question on the special verdict form, asking whether Cosby acted with “malice, oppression or fraud,” which would trigger punitive damages. (Ultimately, they voted 9-3 that Cosby’s conduct did not rise to the level of awarding any punitive damages, and 9-3 that the damages awarded to Huth should be $500,000.)
“Getting a just outcome isn’t always easy,” Judge Karlan explained to the jury on Tuesday afternoon, roughly an hour before they finally reached a verdict. The jury expressed in court that they were divided on the one particular question. “If you can resolve it, that would be great. If you can’t, you can’t,” the judge explained to the jury. “If you’re hopelessly and helplessly deadlocked, you are.”
In his statement sent to the media, Cosby’s spokesperson, suggested that he was unhappy with the judge’s decision to ask the jury to continue deliberating, stating that the jury sent a note earlier in the day explaining that they are “seemingly deadlocked” and wished to “return the verdict with a consensus” on the one question regarding punitive damages. “This is the most amazing news because Ms. Huth could not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Cosby engaged in the conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud.”
Earlier on Tuesday morning, the judge had both sides re-argue the one point of confusion for the jury. It is highly unusual for arguments to continue amid deliberations. On their final attempt to convince the jury on Tuesday, attorneys for Huth and Cosby had starkly difference perspectives.
“She didn’t ask for it. She didn’t want it,” said Huth’s lawyer, Nathan Goldberg, who told the jury that Cosby “lured” Huth to the Playboy Mansion with “careful planning,” stating that he was clearly malicious. “Imagine taking a minor to the Playboy Mansion. She’s not even supposed to be there,” Goldberg said. “Taking his penis out … that’s malicious. … People are not supposed to do this in our society.”
Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, urged the jury to focus on just what Cosby may have done to Huth, and not consider outside opinions or allegations. “You can’t say it’s him, he’s a bad guy,” the attorney said, emphasizing that while she is not trying to “minimize the jury’s beliefs,” there needs to be a “range of reprehensible conduct.” Bonjean said that, in this particular case, there was “no drugging” and “no penetration,” so it “does not rise to maliciousness.”
“We have to say some things are worse than others,” said Bonjean. “We have to have a continuum … if not, we are just engaging in mob justice.”
Bonjean also raised questions regarding the timeline of events, and told the jury that a common theme of Huth’s testimony was that she was “angry,” but not “distressed” to the point where it impacted her day-to-day life. “Forty years later, she starts experiencing distress?” said Bonjean. “It shouldn’t take you 40 years to realize that something was so reprehensible, as the plaintiff says.”
Earlier in the trial, Huth testified that she and her friend felt like they were on an “adventure” when Cosby invited them to the mansion. But she got scared when Cosby had her sit next to him on a bed. She said he tried to kiss her and tried to put his hands down her pants. She resisted, telling him she was on her period. At that point, she said Cosby got up and held her hand against his penis until he ejaculated.
“It was not what I wanted at all,” she told the jury. “I was freaking out.”
Cosby, 84, exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, and did not attend this trial. Instead, jurors saw clips from his videotaped deposition, in which he said he would never pursue a minor for sex. Jurors also saw excerpts of a deposition of Hugh Hefner, taken before his death in 2017.
Huth filed her lawsuit in December 2014, as many other women were coming forward with allegations against Cosby. The suit was postponed for several years, while Cosby faced two criminal trials for sexual assault in Pennsylvania. Cosby’s criminal conviction was overturned last year, and he was freed after serving nearly three years in state prison.
Gene Maddaus contributed to this report.