SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Jurors in a civil trial found on Tuesday that Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975.
The Los Angeles County jury returned the verdict in favor of Judy Huth, who is now 64, and awarded her $500,000.
Jurors found that Cosby intentionally caused harmful sexual contact with Huth, that he reasonably believed she was under 18, and that his conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a minor.
The jury’s decision is a major legal defeat for the 84-year-old entertainer once hailed as America’s father. It comes nearly a year after his Pennsylvania criminal sexual assault conviction was overturned and he was released from prison. Huth’s lawsuit was one of the last remaining legal claims against him after his insurer settled many others against his will.
Cosby did not attend the trial or testify in person, but short clips of the 2015 video deposition were played for jurors, in which he denied any sexual contact with Huth. He continues to deny the allegation through his lawyer and publicist.
Jurors had already reached conclusions on nearly every issue in their verdict form, including whether Cosby abused Huth and whether she deserved damages, after two days of deliberations on Friday. But the jury foreman was unable to continue his duties due to a personal commitment, and the jury had to start deliberating from scratch with a substitute juror on Monday.
Cosby’s attorneys agreed that Cosby met Huth and her high school friend on a Southern California movie set in April 1975, then took them to the Playboy Mansion a few days later.
Huth’s friend Donna Samuelson, a key witness, took photos at Huth and Cosby’s mansion, which figured prominently during the trial.
Huth testified that in a bedroom adjacent to a playroom where the three hung out, Cosby attempted to put his hand down her pants, then exposed himself and forced her to perform a sex act.
Huth sued in 2014, claiming her son had turned 15 – the age she initially remembered being when she went to the mansion – and a wave of other women accusing Cosby of similar acts had re-traumatized what she had experienced as a teenager. .
Huth’s attorney, Nathan Goldberg, told the jury of nine women and three men during closing arguments on Wednesday that “my client deserves Mr. Cosby to be held accountable for what he has done.”
“Each of you knows in your heart that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted Miss Huth,” Goldberg said.
A majority of jurors apparently agreed, giving Huth a victory in a trial that lasted eight years and overcame many hurdles just to stand trial.
During their testimony, Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, consistently challenged Huth and Samuelson for errors of detail in their stories and similarity in the accounts which the attorney claimed represented coordination between the two women.
This included the women saying in pretrial depositions and police interviews that Samuelson had played Donkey Kong that day, a game that wasn’t released until six years later.
Bonjean made a big deal out of it, in what both sides called the “Donkey Kong defense.”
Goldberg asked jurors to look beyond the small errors in detail that he said were inevitable in 45-year-old stories, and to focus on the major issues behind the allegations. He pointed out to jurors that Samuelson said “games like Donkey Kong” when she first mentioned it in her deposition.
Cosby’s attorney began her argument by saying, “It’s like Donkey Kong,” and ended by saying, “game over.”
Huth’s attorney reacted with outrage at his rebuttal.
“It’s a matter of justice!” he shouted, banging on the podium. “We don’t need a game over! We need justice!
The Associated Press does not normally name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they come forward publicly, as Huth did.
AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report.
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