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Civil jury finds Bill Cosby sexually abused teen in 1975, awards $500K

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Jurors at a civil trial found Tuesday that Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975.

The Los Angeles County jury delivered the verdict in favor of Judy Huth, now 64, and awarded her $ 500,000 in compensatory damages.

Jurors found that Cosby intentionally caused harmful sexual contact with Huth, that he reasonably believed she was under 18, and that his conduct was driven by unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a minor.

The jurors’ decision is a major legal defeat for the 84-year-old entertainer once hailed as America’s dad. It comes nearly a year after his Pennsylvania criminal conviction for sexual assault was thrown out and he was freed from prison.

Related: Bill Cosby remains free after US Supreme Court declines to review conviction reversal

Context:Will Bill Cosby’s case make it to the US Supreme Court? Chances are slim, legal analysts say

Huth’s lawsuit was one of the last remaining legal claims against him after his insurer settled many others against his will.

One legal analyst, Joshua Ritter, a former prosecutor, now a defense lawyer and partner with the Los Angeles firm Werksman Jackson & Quinn, predicted the verdict would embolden other accusers with old allegations. But it doesn’t mean those claims are more likely to succeed, Ritter told.

“For Judith Huth to have won this trial is remarkable,” he said Tuesday following the verdict. “Her claims were stale and had proof problems, with inconsistent memories that were warped and faded from the passage of time. She presented a photograph and the testimony of a friend, but very little other corroborating evidence.”

Judy Huth takes the stand in Bill Cosby sex abuse trial: ‘We were kids and he was a celebrity’

For Cosby, he said, the defeat could spell trouble. “It could easily chum the waters and convince other potential victims to take their chances by filing a lawsuit against him,” he says.

But trial attorney Christa Ramey, co-founder of Los Angeles-based civil litigation firm Ramey Law, suggested the verdict would not open “the floodgates,” at least not in California.

“Childhood sexual assault victims have until they are about 40 years old in most cases in California to bring a claim,” she said. “If this verdict leads any women to bring a claim from two or three decades ago, against Bill Cosby or any other public figure, it will only be a limited number of cases.”

RAINN, the anti-sexual violence advocacy group, issued a statement hailing the jury for its verdict and Huth for her bravery. “Today’s verdict shows survivors that perpetrators, even powerful ones, can be held accountable,” the statement said.

One of Huth’s lead attorneys, women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, issued a statement after the verdict thanking the jury and praising Huth’s courage.

“Today our client, Judy Huth, won real change because she fought Bill Cosby one step at a time over seven and a half years, and 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 accountable for what he did to her, “Allred said. “We are proud of Ms. Huth and our victory against Bill Cosby.”

Bill Cosby: Closing arguments begin in civil trial over 47-year-old sex-abuse allegation

Attorney Gloria Allred and her client Judy Huth, left, at a press conference in December 2014.

Cosby did not attend the trial or testify in person, but short clips from a 2015 video deposition were played for jurors, in which he denied any sexual contact with Huth. He continues to deny the allegation through his attorney and publicist.

Jurors had already reached conclusions on almost every question on their verdict form, including whether Cosby abused Huth and whether she deserved damages, after two days of deliberations on Friday.

But the jury foreperson could not serve further because of a personal commitment and was excused; The panel had to start deliberating from scratch with an alternate juror on Monday.

Cosby’s attorneys agreed that Cosby met Huth and her high school friend on a Southern California film set in April of 1975, then took them to the Playboy Mansion a few days later.

Huth’s friend Donna Samuelson, a key witness, took photos at the mansion of Huth and Cosby, which loomed large at the trial.

Huth testified that in a bedroom adjacent to a game room where the three had been hanging out, Cosby attempted to put his hand down her pants, then exposed himself and forced her to perform a sex act.

Huth filed her lawsuit in 2014, saying that her son turning 15 – the age she initially remembered being when she went to the mansion – and a surge of dozens of other women accusing Cosby of similar acts brought fresh trauma over what she had been through as a teenager, she asserted.

Huth’s attorney Nathan Goldberg told the jury of nine women and three men during closing arguments Wednesday that “my client deserves to have Mr. Cosby held accountable for what he did … Each of you knows in your heart that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted Miss Huth, “Goldberg said.

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa.  on April 20, 2018, and Judy Huth appears at a news conference in Los Angeles on Dec.  5, 2014. J

A majority of jurors apparently agreed, giving Huth a victory in a suit that took eight years and overcame many hurdles just to get to trial.

During their testimony, Cosby attorney Jennifer Bonjean consistently challenged Huth and Samuelson over errors in detail in their stories, and a similarity in the accounts that the lawyer said represented coordination between the two women.

This included the women saying in pre-trial depositions and police interviews that Samuelson had played Donkey Kong that day, a game not released until six years later.

Bonjean made much of this, in what both sides came to call the “Donkey Kong defense.”

Goldberg asked jurors to look past the small errors in detail that he said were inevitable in stories that were 47 years old, and 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.

The Cosby lawyer began her closing arguments by saying, “It’s on like Donkey Kong,” and finished by declaring, “game over.”

Huth’s attorney reacted with outrage during his rebuttal.

“This is about justice!” he shouted, pounding on the podium. “We don’t need game over! We need justice!”

Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, said Cosby would continue to fight the allegations but did not immediately say whether he would appeal the verdict.

Bonjean, who led Cosby’s appellate team that persuaded the Pennsylvania high court to overturn his sex-crimes conviction last summer, did not immediately comment.

Multiple other accusers of Cosby who sued him in civil courts have either settled and collected damages from Cosby’s insurance company or their cases were dismissed.

One civil case remains, filed last October after his conviction was overturned, in federal court in New Jersey. Lili Bernard is seeking $ 125 million from Cosby for alleged sexual assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment during a 1990 hotel room encounter in Atlantic City.

Background on Judy Huth trial:Bill Cosby accuser’s lawsuit alleging he groped her when she was a teen will go to trial, judge rules

Contributing: Maria Puente,; Andrew Dalton, The

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