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

  • Tragically Hip album sales, audio streams soar after Gord Downie's death

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Fans of the Tragically Hip flocked to the band's music as they mourned the death of singer Gord Downie, which drove a huge boost in sales, streams and radio play. Eleven albums by the Kingston, Ont. Source
  • New York attorney general launches probe of Weinstein Co.

    Entertainment CBC News
    State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a civil rights investigation on Monday into The Weinstein Co. following sexual harassment and assault allegations against its co-founder, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. As part of the investigation, the prosecutor's office issued a subpoena seeking company records on harassment complaints and legal settlements to determine whether any civil rights and anti-discrimination laws were broken. Source
  • Hoser comedy 'Letterkenny' to get new episodes, international push

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — The hit hoser comedy “Letterkenny” is getting a commitment for more episodes, a tour and a push to expand internationally. CraveTV and “Letterkenny” producers New Metric Media have announced a multi-year partnership that includes the production of more than 40 new episodes. Source
  • 'Letterkenny' gets new episodes, tour, international push

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO - The hit hoser comedy "Letterkenny" is getting a commitment for more episodes, a tour and a push to expand internationally. CraveTV and "Letterkenny" producers New Metric Media have announced a multi-year partnership that includes the production of more than 40 new episodes. Source
  • John Stamos gets engaged to girlfriend at Disneyland

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- John Stamos picked "the happiest place on earth" to get engaged over the weekend. The 54-year-old Stamos announced his engagement to 31-year-old actress Caitlin McHugh on Sunday on social media, writing: "I asked. Source
  • Have mercy! 'Full House' star John Stamos engaged

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    John Stamos pulled out all the stops to propose to girlfriend Caitlin Mchugh during a recent trip to Disneyland. The Full House actor revealed he’s set to wed for a second time by sharing a drawing of himself and Caitlin in front of the Disney castle on Instagram on Sunday night, alongside the caption: “I asked. Source
  • AC/DC producer and Australian music pioneer George Young dies

    Entertainment CTV News
    Australian music pioneer George Young, a driving force behind AC/DC which was fronted by his brothers Angus and Malcolm, has died aged 70, the band and his publishing house said Monday. Young shot to fame in the 1960s as a member of Sydney-based The Easybeats and became an established songwriter, penning classics like "Love is in the Air" and "Friday on my Mind" with long-time collaborator Harry Vanda. Source
  • Harry Styles groped onstage

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Harry Styles’ fans have been left disgusted after an overzealous concert-goer appeared to grope the pop star onstage in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The One Direction singer was performing his song Kiwi at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the We Can Survive concert for breast cancer awareness when he dropped down to his knees at the front of the stage. Source
  • ’Star Trek: Discovery’ renewed for a second season

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — CBS All Access says it has renewed “Star Trek: Discovery” for a second season. The announcement on Monday comes just weeks after the series’ premiere on CBS’ digital video-streaming service. Since then, the series has driven subscriber growth, critical acclaim and global fan interest, the network says. Source
  • No joke: David Letterman honoured with Mark Twain Prize

    Entertainment CBC News
    David Letterman was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Sunday night for his record run on late-night TV, innovative comedy routines and for helping the nation start to heal by reassuring that it was OK to laugh again after the terrorist attacks of Sept. Source