Despite mistrial in criminal case, civil lawsuits await Cosby

Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:42am EDT
 
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By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - Although Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial ended in a mistrial on Saturday, his legal problems persist as he faces assault and defamation claims in civil lawsuits, where the bar for evidence is lower than in criminal cases.

In civil lawsuits in the United States, plaintiffs need only show that the weight of evidence is on their side, meaning they have information to tip the scales above 50 percent in their favor, as opposed to criminal cases in which prosecutors must prove claims beyond a reasonable doubt.

At least 10 women have pending civil claims against Cosby in lawsuits filed in California and Massachusetts.

Two have brought claims against the 79-year-old entertainer for sexual assault. Others, barred from doing so because their claims were too old, have brought defamation claims against him, saying he smeared their reputations by publicly denying their accusations.

The judge in the criminal case against Cosby in Pennsylvania declared a mistrial on Saturday after jurors said they were deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous verdict on charges that Cosby sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in 2004. At the time, Constand worked at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University.

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who specializes in criminal justice, said the hung jury did not mean that a civil jury would clear Cosby of liability.

“There may not be enough evidence for a criminal conviction, but that does not rule out a civil verdict,” said Harris.

Approximately 60 accusations of sexual assault have been made against Cosby over a number of years, but only Constand's resulted in criminal charges because the other alleged incidents were too old to prosecute. Cosby has denied all of the accusations.   Continued...

 
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby (C) reacts after a judge declared a mistrial in his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson