Judge tosses Pennsylvania woman's defamation suit vs. Cosby

PITTSBURGH -- A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Pittsburgh-area woman who claims Bill Cosby defamed her when he and his representatives responded to allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted her and other women.

See Full Article

The October lawsuit filed by Renita Hill, 48, of Baldwin, was dismissed with prejudice, meaning she cannot try to amend and re-file it.

Hill went public with her allegations in November 2014 in an interview on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV in which she said she was "emboldened" by other women who had made similar accusations against Cosby.

Her lawsuit said she was made out to be a "liar" and "extortionist" when the comedian, his wife and his attorney issued blanket denials.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab agreed with Cosby's attorneys that the statements were opinions protected by the First Amendment.

"Even considering these three statements together as a combined, single statement, this newly 'conjoined' statement does not lead to an inference that plaintiff is a 'liar and an extortionist,"' the judge wrote.

Cosby's attorneys referred questions to a spokeswoman who didn't immediately comment on the ruling.

Hill's attorney, George Kontos, promised to appeal saying he strongly disagreed with the judge's reasoning.

"The basis of his opinion is these are constitutionally protected, 'pure' opinions," Kontos said. "But, looked at as a whole, they contain all sorts of innuendo and undisclosed facts."

A day after Hill's interview, Cosby attorney Martin Singer issued a statement saying: "The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity."

Cosby and his wife, Camille, made separate statements in the weeks that followed, with Cosby saying he refused to respond to "innuendos" and inviting the public to "fact-check" his accusers. Camille Cosby accused media outlets of violating rules of journalistic integrity by publishing some of the allegations without properly "vetting" Cosby's accusers.

Kontos had argued in an earlier court filing that those statements weren't pure opinions protected by the First Amendment because they included "undisclosed facts" -- namely, the implication that Hill and the other accusers are lying.

But Judge Schwab found the statements citing innuendo and fact-checking were "a far cry" from labeling the accusers liars and extortionists.

Cosby has yet to respond specifically to Hill's allegations that he drugged and molested her several times after they met on the TV show, "Picture Pages," in 1983. Hill claims that went on for about four years, starting when she was 16, and that Cosby helped pay for her college and would fly her to cities where he was performing, until she cut off contact with him about four years later.

Seven women are suing Cosby in federal court in Massachusetts for defamation. Like Hill, those women contend Cosby defamed them by allowing his representatives to brand them as liars.

In December, Cosby countersued, saying the women made "malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations" against him for monetary gain.

Since then, Cosby has been criminally charged in suburban Philadelphia with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 after giving her drugs that made her drowsy and unable to resist. A judge has set a Feb. 2 hearing on a motion by Cosby's attorneys to have those charges dismissed.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • After #MeToo, will this year's Golden Globe nominations send a message to Hollywood?

    Entertainment CBC News
    They always set the stage for the rest of awards season but this year the Golden Globe nominations are about much more than just the screen itself. With the sexual harassment scandal unfolding daily, the climate in Hollywood might not only affect who shines through, but also who's left out. Source
  • Will this year's Golden Globe nominations send a message to Hollywood?

    Entertainment CBC News
    They always set the stage for the rest of awards season but this year the Golden Globe nominations are about much more than just the screen itself. With the sexual harassment scandal unfolding daily, the climate in Hollywood might not only affect who shines through, but also who's left out. Source
  • Jane Fonda raises US$1.3 million at 80th birthday fundraiser

    Entertainment CTV News
    ATLANTA -- Jane Fonda used her 80th birthday celebration to raise US$1.3 million for her foundation. The two-time Oscar-winner held the "Eight Decades of Jane" fundraiser at an upscale hotel Saturday night. The event recognized Fonda's life achievements along with her foundation, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, which she created in 1995. Source
  • 'Coco' tops box office again before 'Star Wars' hits

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Disney and Pixar's "Coco" has topped the box office for a third time on a quiet, pre "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" weekend in theatres. Disney estimates Sunday that "Coco" added US$18.3 million, bringing its domestic total to $135.5 million. Source
  • 'Coco' enjoys one more box office win ahead of 'Star Wars'

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- The animated family film "Coco" has topped the box office for a third time on a quiet, pre "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" weekend in theatres. Disney estimated Sunday that "Coco" added $18.3 million, which would bring its domestic total to $135.5 million. Source
  • Celebrity publicist Max Clifford dead at 74 while in jail

    Entertainment CBC News
    Disgraced celebrity publicist Max Clifford, a confidant to the stars who fell from grace amid Britain's investigation of past sexual abuse, died Sunday after collapsing in prison. He was 74. Once one of the most powerful figures in British entertainment, Clifford was convicted in 2014 of eight counts of indecent assault stemming from attacks on teenagers dating back more than 40 years. Source
  • Prince William, Prince Harry commission Diana statue for palace grounds

    Entertainment CBC News
    Kensington Palace says Prince William and Prince Harry have chosen sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley to create a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. Rank-Broadley, whose image of Queen Elizabeth II has appeared on British coins since 1998, will complete the work by 2019. Source
  • Poet Robert Frost's original Christmas cards on display

    Entertainment CTV News
    MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- For the first time in more than half a century, a series of Christmas cards and booklets that feature poems by Robert Frost, the poet known for his gritty images of rural New England life, are on display at Vermont's Middlebury College. Source
  • 'Truly great': 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' wins early praise at L.A. premiere

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- There were cheers, gasps, droid photo opportunities, casino games and more than a few standing ovations at the jam-packed world premiere of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Saturday night in Los Angeles, which many are already praising online. Source
  • From Get Out to Spider-Man, Lady Bird to Blade Runner: Eli Glasner's best films of 2017

    Entertainment CBC News
    Here we are. For the film industry, 2017 represented an important turning point, for Hollywood and the culture at large. Although they've been gestating for years, filmmakers somehow managed to serve up movies that spoke to the moment. Source