THE WOMEN accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault face a long and difficult legal road. He’s been criminally charged with nothing, has admitted nothing, and many of the alleged offenses occurred years ago. Still, the accusers say they have stories that must be told — and several of them have been telling their stories to our Tracy Smith:
At the height of his power, Bill Cosby really was “America’s dad.” On his galactically successful show, the laughs came with lessons on morality … responsibility … love.
And that makes what’s happening now all the harder to comprehend.
An ever-widening circle of women have accused the comedian of sexual assault — more than enough to fill the cover of New York Magazine this past July.
The charges have a common thread: Bill Cosby drugged me … kissed me … touched me … raped me. But behind each photo is a story.
Lili Bernard was a sometime-cast member on “The Cosby Show,” which was taped in New York City. Bernard says Cosby, whom she then considered a mentor and father-figure, told her to meet him in Atlantic City in 1990.
“He told me I had to go to Atlantic City to meet a producer that he wanted to introduce me to who would further my career,” she told Smith.
Once there, she says Cosby gave her a drink that made her violently ill, and then helped her to the bathroom to — she thought — help her clean up.
Smith asked, “Because you’re still thinking he’s this father figure?”
“Yeah, he’s gonna wash me,” said Bernard. “And the next thing I remember, now he’s not only pulling off my skirt and my jacket, but he’s also taking off my stockings and my shoes, and I must have passed out at this point, ’cause the next thing I remember … ”
When she woke up naked and groggy in a hotel bathtub, she says she heard Cosby’s voice.
“I remember him saying, ‘Are you okay, Bernard?’ And then, I must have passed out again in the tub naked, I’m totally naked, I don’t know how I got into the tub. So I imagine he must have either carried me or lifted me or dragged me, I don’t know.”
“Did you think about going to the police?” Smith asked.
“Yes, I told Bill Cosby I would call the police. I said I would call the police, and he threatened me that if I called the police that he — the minute that I come back from the police — would go the police and file a police report against me for false accusation and defamation. ‘And who are they going to believe, Bernard? You or me?'”
“What did you think? Who are they gonna believe?”
“They would never believe me, you know?” she replied. “He was one of the most powerful men in the entertainment industry. And he was a philanthropist and he was a moralist. He was Bill Cosby. So who the heck’s gonna believe me?”
Bill Cosby has not been charged with any crime, nor has he, or his attorneys, admitted any wrongdoing.
He did say in a 2005 court deposition that he kept quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
Now, he’s being sued by several other women, and has another deposition coming up on October 9.
- Is Bill Cosby in legal jeopardy after sedative admission? (“CBS This Morning”)
- Bill Cosby’s accusers — A timeline of alleged sexual assault claims (Entertainment Tonight)
- Bill Cosby addresses allegations: “I’ve never seen anything like this”
With regard to the legal concept “Innocent until proven guilty,” professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles says as far as Cosby is concerned, “he’s pretty much been convicted in the court of public opinion. And that’s in part because so many women have come forward. And he himself admitted that he gave them the drugs. And the story starts to add up that he probably did that because they weren’t consenting, and therefore he should be held responsible for his acts.”
But Levenson says that for many Cosby accusers, the clock has run out for any criminal charges.
“It is certainly possible that Bill Cosby will live out the rest of his life without being criminally charged for any of these offenses,” she said. “We know he’s facing lawsuits, and that’s something different. But in terms of going to jail, not so likely.”
And if the allegations are true, Cosby has been assaulting women for decades.
Victoria Valentino was Playboy’s Miss September 1963, and an aspiring actress who would get the occasional bit part.
The high point of her life was when her son, Tony, was born. And the very lowest moment came in 1969, when — a week after his sixth birthday — he accidentally drowned in a backyard pool. “This Saturday, my son would have been 52,” Valentino told Smith. “He was everything. I breathed for him.”
To cheer her up, a friend encouraged Valentino to get an acting job. “She said, ‘You need a job. You’re an actress. Let me introduce you to my buddy, Bill Cosby.”