Nearly one year after Bill Cosby walked out of prison on a legal technicality, a jury once again agreed that he committed sexual assault — this time awarding Judy Huth $500,000 in compensatory damages for an incident she says occurred when she was around 16 years old. According to Huth, the comedian brought her and a friend to the Playboy Mansion in the 1970s and molested her in a bedroom. Cosby has denied Huth’s allegation, just as he has denied each of the other complaints by the 60-plus women who say Cosby abused and even raped them.
After the jury delivered its verdict on June 21, Huth said, “I feel good, I feel vindicated,” the New York Times reports. She has been arguing her point for years, having initially filed a lawsuit against the disgraced comedian in 2014. Hers was the first of the unresolved civil cases against Cosby to go to trial since his 2018 criminal conviction. And notably, of the dozens of strikingly similar allegations made against Cosby, Huth’s lawsuit was reportedly the only one that accused him of sexually abusing a child.
Below, everything we know about the trial and the verdict.
Who is Judy Huth?
Huth, now 64, says she met Cosby as a teenager after seeing him on the set of Let’s Do It Again in San Marino, California. Initially, Huth said the meeting took place in 1974, when she was 15; she now alleges it happened in 1975, meaning she would have been 16 and Cosby 37. She says Cosby invited her and her friend to his tennis club, where they played games and he gave them alcohol. From there, she says, he brought them to the Playboy Mansion, instructing both girls to tell anyone who asked that they were 19.
What does Huth allege?
According to Huth, after they arrived at the Mansion, Cosby forced himself on her in a bedroom. She says he tried to kiss her and stick his hand inside her pants, then grabbed hers and made her perform a sex act on him. She filed her suit — accusing Cosby of sexual battery and the infliction of emotional distress — in December 2014, after the first wave of Cosby’s victims began speaking publicly. Also in 2014, Huth filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department’s special-victims unit, though it never resulted in charges against the comedian: The district attorney said the statute of limitations had run out on complaints from that time period.
What does Cosby have to say about that?
Cosby claims that the assault didn’t happen — or not the way she says it did. His legal team pointed to inconsistencies in Huth’s account. Cosby’s attorneys argued he wasn’t at the Playboy Mansion, or filming in the area she described, in 1974. They pointed to the Mansion’s guest logs for that year, noting that neither Huth’s nor her friend’s name were listed among the visitors.
But after she saw Cosby’s filings and the evidence his team included, Huth filed new documents saying she had gotten the dates wrong. She reportedly realized that he shot Let’s Do It Again in 1975, making her 16 at the time of the alleged assault. Before proceedings began, Cosby’s team characterized the shift in Huth’s recollections as “trial by ambush.”
“We feel confident that the Playboy records along with Ms. Huth changing her timeline of events from 1974 to 1975 in the 11th hour will vindicate Mr. Cosby,” his spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, said of the case.
Still, there is a photo of Cosby and Huth together at the Playboy Mansion, which Huth says helped jog her memory. Cosby’s team contended that the photo was taken when Huth was no longer a minor.
Why did the case going to trial in 2022?
In 2020, California extended its statute of limitations for child-sex-abuse complaints. The new guidelines make accommodations specifically for adults who have repressed memories of incidents that occurred when they were minors, then find themselves dealing with psychological injury later on. Initially, Huth said the encounter left her “so mentally scarred that she only recently connected her psychological issues.”
As to why the case took eight years to reach a jury, that’s largely owing to the criminal trial in Pennsylvania that resulted in Cosby’s 2018 conviction on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. He received a three-to-ten-year prison sentence, which came to an abrupt end in June 2021. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a 2005 “non-prosecution” agreement meant not that Cosby wasn’t guilty of the crimes he had been accused of but that he shouldn’t have been tried for them. While the criminal case played out, momentum on civil suits stalled.
Will Cosby go back to prison?
No. The remaining cases against Cosby — there’s another pending in New Jersey brought by Lili Bernard, who says he drugged and sexually assaulted her in Atlantic City in 1990 — are civil. Cosby, now 84 and reportedly in poor health, did not take the stand or appear in court, though jurors did view a taped deposition of his from 2015.
The court heard from the friend who allegedly accompanied Huth to the mansion: Donna Samuelson, who testified on June 1 that Huth confided the assault in her directly after it happened. “She said, ‘I want to go, I wanna leave,’ she was crying,” Samuelson recalled. The then-17-year-old didn’t want to go and got angry with Huth. But then, Samuelson continued, her friend “said Bill Cosby had tried to have sex with her.” Samuelson told the jury that she asked Huth if she wanted to go to the police, and when Huth said no, she convinced her to stay at the mansion for a while. Cosby, she said, had left by that point: “I thought it would calm her down to go swimming and stuff,” Samuelson explained in her June 1 testimony. “I said, ‘We’ll leave as soon as he gets back.’” By the time he did, they had already had dinner at the mansion. She said Cosby went up to Huth and put his arm around her when he walked in. The girls got up to leave, Samuelson said, but Cosby introduced them to Hugh Hefner on the way out.
During their cross-examination on June 6, Cosby’s lawyers questioned inconsistencies in Samuelson’s testimony — she initially told police that Huth was 15 at the time of the alleged assault and said she remembered playing a game “like Donkey Kong” at the mansion, though Donkey Kong didn’t exist yet — in an attempt to undermine her credibility. They also accused Samuelson of trying to take down Cosby because he is Black. But Huth’s attorneys put two other witnesses on the stand who have similar accounts to Huth’s: One, Kimberly Burr, said Cosby tried to kiss her in his trailer on the set of Let’s Do It Again when she was 14. The other, Margie Shapiro, said she met Cosby in a doughnut shop when she was 19 and that he invited her over to his house before bringing her to the mansion. There, she alleges that he drugged her and forced himself on her. Cosby, of course, denies all of it.
Huth began her testimony on June 6, describing the lead-up to the alleged Playboy Mansion encounter: She said that, after meeting Cosby in a park in San Marino, she and a friend went over to his house, where they played pool as a drinking game at Cosby’s suggestion. “It was an adventure,” she testified. “We were kids. He was a celebrity.” Eventually, she said he asked them, “Are you girls ready for your surprise?”
“I had no clue what it could be,” Huth continued. She said Cosby had them follow him to the mansion in a car, and that she took a photo with the comedian — the one mentioned above, which Huth says helped her remember the timeline — about 15 minutes “before he molested” her. The next day, she spoke to the alleged assault itself. “He forced himself on me,” she said, explaining through tears that Cosby had allegedly tried to shove his hand inside her pants. He then exposed himself to her, Huth continued, and made her touch him. Huth said the encounter occurred in a “blue bedroom” off the game room, and that it left her “shocked, to say the least.” She said she had told Cosby that she was underage and that she had her period, hoping he would leave her alone. “I was trying to deflect,” she said, according to NBC. “But he didn’t stop. I just closed my eyes … It was so fast. Maybe five minutes. Quick.”
In their cross-examination of Huth, Cosby’s team zeroed in on the discrepancy between Huth’s original account and her testimony. “You lied about the date, the year this happened, and your age,” attorney Jennifer Bonjean said, accusing Huth of making a false report for financial gain. Huth said that her son turning 15 had brought her own memories back to the surface; Bonjean accused her of using her child as pretext to distract from her opportunism. She also questioned Huth’s silence, arguing that it was racially motivated: “You didn’t tell anyone about it because Mr. Cosby is a Black man and that’s not okay in your community,” Bonjean said. Huth (who is white) denied this, noting that she has Black family members and explaining that Cosby traumatized her. For his part, the comedian appeared in a prerecorded deposition, denying the assault and also claiming that he didn’t know Huth, did not remember ever taking her to the Playboy Mansion, and would not recognize her if he saw her now.
What happened with the jury?
Two days into deliberations, the jury reached a verdict on eight of the nine questions before them, including whether or not they found that Cosby had sexually assaulted Huth. The only question reportedly left unanswered by the end of day Friday was whether or not Cosby should owe punitive damages. After promising a juror that they would be allowed to leave after Friday for a prior commitment, Judge Craig Karlan reportedly decided to read the judgment despite the question left unanswered. However, as reported by the AP, the day was cut short, and Karlan and the jury were forced to leave the Santa Monica Courthouse by 4:30 p.m. because there was no budget for the courthouse deputies to work overtime.
On June 20, the jury started its deliberations from scratch with an alternate juror, announcing its verdict the following evening. It did not award punitive damages, which Bonjean described as “a significant win” for Cosby, who apparently plans to appeal. “Mr. Cosby continues to maintain his innocence,” Wyatt said in a statement, according to the Times, “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.” But Gloria Allred, one of Huth’s lawyers, billed the decision as a win. “She has demonstrated so much courage and made so many sacrifices to win justice,” Allred said. “She won real change. She fought Bill Cosby and won.” Lili Bernard, another of the women suing Cosby, agreed. “Judy Huth is a hero!” she told the Times. “Her coming forward inspired others to find their voices.”
This article has been updated.