Three women who say they were sexually molested by comedian Bill Cosby have appeared at a press conference in Los Angeles, where each tearfully recounted the alleged assaults.
The event on Wednesday afternoon was organised by lawyer Gloria Allred, a long-time women’s rights advocate, who told reporters the women were just three of many who had contacted her with similar claims about Mr Cosby. “I have literally lost count,” she said.
Two of the women had never made the allegations publicly before. The third, Beth Ferrier, was one of several prepared to testify against the comedian in a 2005 lawsuit accusing Mr Cosby of a sexual assault at his Pennsylvania home. Mr Cosby, now 77, settled that lawsuit out of court. The women were never called to testify, and the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Both Ms Ferrier and one of the other women at the press conference, who gave her name only as “Chelan”, claimed to have been drugged and sexually assaulted by Mr Cosby. The third, Helen Hayes, alleged that she had been groped by the comedian at a celebrity tennis tournament in 1973.
Chelan claimed she was 17 at the time of her alleged assault, and working at a Las Vegas hotel. Mr Cosby allegedly called her to his room, saying that he wanted to introduce her to a modelling agent. Instead, she claimed, he drugged and raped her. He finally woke her, hours later, by clapping and telling her: “Daddy says wake up,” she said.
Though the statute of limitations on the alleged assaults has run out, meaning Mr Cosby could no longer be prosecuted, Ms Allred challenged him to waive the statute and fight the claims in court.
“If Mr Cosby believes all the women are being untruthful, then this is his opportunity to prove it,” she said. Alternatively, she suggested Mr Cosby set up a $100m (£64m) fund from which his accusers could derive compensation if their claims were found to be true, arbitrated by an informal panel of retired judges.
The press conference came a day after a 55-year-old California woman filed a civil suit in Los Angeles, claiming that the comedian sexually assaulted her after inviting her to a party at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15. Judy Huth said the “traumatic incident, at such a tender age, has caused psychological damage and mental anguish” ever since.
In California, the statute of limitations does not hold if a person can prove they only became aware of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse within the past three years. More than a dozen other women have made allegations of sexual assault against Mr Cosby in recent weeks, but this is the first time any have attempted to pursue the comedian by legal means.
Bill Cosby: Career in pictures
Bill Cosby: Career in pictures
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Winner of his first Emmy for 'I Spy' is Bill Cosby being congratulated by his wife Camille held at Americana Hotel, 1966
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Bill Cosby in 'I Spy', 1960s
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Bill Cosby in July 1973 in Perth
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Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor in 'California Suite', 1978
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Bill Cosby and Elmo in Sesame Street, 1989
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Bill Cosby poses for a picture with Florence Griffith-Joyner in June 1989
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Comedian Bill Cosby back in 1992
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A scene from a 1992 episode of 'The Cosby Show'
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US Monica Seles breaks into laughter as she jokes with comedian Bill Cosby during a celebrity match in the stadium at the US Open for the Arthur Ashe AIDS Challenge on 27 August 1995
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Bill Cosby meets Toronto Blue Jays' All-Star Joe Carter after the Stars played the Stripes in the Celebrity All-Star game which preceded workouts for the 67th All-Star Game at Veterans Stadium on 8 July 1996 in Philadephia
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Co-hosts Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby joke with each other during the opening of the 2000 Essence Awards 14 April 2000 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City
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Bill Cosby jokes with baseball great Hank Aaron after they both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from U.S. President George W. Bush during a ceremony on 9 July 2002 at the White House in Washington
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Bill Cosby poses backstage after winning the 'Bob Hope Humanitarian Award' during the 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on 21 September 2003 in Los Angeles
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'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno and comedian Bill Cosby laugh during a surprise visit by Cosby to sign a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that Leno is using to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina at NBC studios on 9 September 2005 in Burbank, California
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Bill Cosby speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press' at the NBC studios on 14 October 2007 in Washington
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Bill Cosby at the 12th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center on 26 October 2009 in Washington
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Bill Cosby speaks at the National Action Network's 20th annual Keepers of the Dream Awards gala in New York on 6 April 2011
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Bill Cosby during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows supporting the Motion Picture & Television Fund and the American Comedy Fund, 2012
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Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 25th Awards Gala on 11 November 2013 in Washington
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Bill Cosby performs at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on 26 September 2014 in Las Vegas
In interviews, Mr Cosby has refused to address the allegations, which stretch back as far as the 1960s, and all of which he denies. His lawyers have also flatly denied the women’s claims. Speaking to Florida Today before a recent stand-up performance, the 77-year-old said, “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos.”
Mr Cosby has never been charged in relation to any of the claims.
On Monday, Mr Cosby resigned from the board of trustees of his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, he tweeted for the first time in more than two weeks, to thank Whoopi Goldberg, a co-host of The View, and singer Jill Scott, both of whom have expressed scepticism about the allegations.
Since the new raft of sexual assault claims began to surface last month, Netflix has axed the comedian’s planned stand-up special, NBC scrapped a forthcoming sitcom that it was developing with Mr Cosby, and he has cancelled multiple dates on his stand-up tour.Reuse content