Bill Cosby’s admission that he obtained sedatives to give young women he was pursuing for sex could bolster defamation claims lodged by his accusers, the women’s lawyers have said.
Cosby in sworn testimony unsealed yesterday admitted that he gave the now-banned sedative Quaalude to at least one of his accusers and to unnamed others.
His lawyer interfered before he could answer deposition questions in 2005 about how many women were given drugs and whether they knew about it.
Lisa Bloom, lawyer for model Janice Dickinson, who contends she was drugged and raped, said: “If today’s report is true, Mr Cosby admitted under oath 10 years ago sedating women for sexual purposes.
“Given that, how dare he publicly vilify Ms Dickinson and accuse her of lying when she tells a very similar story?”
The Associated Press (AP) had gone to court to compel the release of a deposition in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand – the first of a cascade of lawsuits against Cosby that have severely damaged his image as doting TV father Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992.
His lawyers objected to the release of the material, arguing it would embarrass him. Ultimately, a judge seized on Cosby’s public moralising as he unsealed portions of the deposition that had been filed in court.
“The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct, is a matter as to which the AP – and by extension the public – has a significant interest,” US District Judge Eduardo Robreno wrote.
Cosby, 77, has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct in episodes dating back more than four decades. He has never been charged with a crime, and the statute of limitations on most of the accusations has expired.
The entertainer settled Ms Constand’s lawsuit under confidential terms in 2006. Even the judge never saw the settlement terms, although the documents show that Cosby at one point offered the accuser an “educational trust” fund.
Ms Constand’s lawyer said she consented to be identified although she did not want to comment.
Cosby’s lawyers insisted during the deposition that two of the accusers knew they were taking Quaaludes from the comedian, according to the documents.
Nevertheless, lawyers for some of the numerous women suing Cosby seized on the evidence as powerful corroboration of what they have been saying all along, that he drugged and raped women.
“The women have been saying they’ve been drugged and abused, and these documents appear to support the allegations,” said lawyer Joe Cammarata, who represents accuser Therese Serignese, one of three women suing Cosby for defamation in Massachusetts. She has also agreed to have her name published.
Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, representing other women, said she also hopes to use the admission in civil court cases against the comedian.
Cosby, giving sworn testimony in the lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting Ms Constand at his home near Philadelphia in 2004, said he obtained seven Quaalude prescriptions in the 1970s. Ms Constand’s lawyer asked if he had kept the sedatives through the 1990s – after they were banned – but was frustrated by objections from Cosby’s lawyer.
Ms Constand’s lawyer Dolores M Troiani asked:“When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?”
“Yes,” Cosby answered.
“Did you ever give any of these young women the Quaaludes without their knowledge?”
Cosby’s lawyer again objected, leading Ms Troiani to petition the federal judge to force Cosby to co-operate.
Cosby later said he gave Ms Constand three half-pills of Benadryl, although Ms Troiani in the documents voices doubt that was the drug involved.
Ms Constand thought he was giving her an herbal remedy, she said in her lawsuit. She recalls having him touch her breasts and put her hand on his penis, and woke up to find her clothes askew, according to her lawsuit. Cosby called any sexual contact consensual, according to arguments made by Ms Troiani.
“This evidence shows a pattern in which defendant ’mentored’ naive young women and introduced drugs into the relationship, with and without the woman’s knowledge, in order for him to achieve sexual satisfaction,” Ms Troiani wrote in a motion to compel Cosby to answer deposition questions.
Cosby had fought efforts to unseal the testimony, with his lawyer arguing that the deposition could reveal details of Cosby’s marriage, sex life and prescription drug use.
“It would be terribly embarrassing for this material to come out,” lawyer George M Gowen III argued in June. He also said the material would “prejudice him in eyes of the jury pool in Massachusetts”, where Cosby is fighting defamation lawsuits brought by the women who say his representatives smeared them by accusing them of lying.
Judge Robreno had temporarily sealed some documents in the Constand lawsuit but never ruled on a final seal before the case was settled.
Under federal court rules in Pennsylvania, documents must be unsealed after two years unless a party can show specific harm. The judge ruled that Cosby’s potential embarrassment was insufficient.
Mr Robreno asked last month why Cosby was fighting the release of his sworn testimony, given that the accusations in the Constand lawsuit already were public. “Why would he be embarrassed by his own version of the facts?” he said.
Cosby resigned in December from the board of trustees at Temple, where he was the popular face of the Philadelphia university in advertisements, fundraising campaigns and commencement speeches.
Lawyer Gayle Sproul, representing the AP, in court last month called the married Cosby “an icon” who “held himself out as someone who would guide the public in ways of morality”.
Mr Troiani, summarising her evidence, painted a starkly different picture.
Cosby “has evidenced a predilection for sexual contact with women who are unconscious or drugged. His victims are young, ’star struck’ and totally trusting of his public persona,” Ms Troiani argued.