'This is a game changer': Bill Cosby should steel himself for more sexual assault charges after guilty verdict, legal experts say

'He’s fighting a multipronged war. He’s really going to be very stretched in terms of his legal defences'

Emily Shugerman
New York
Friday 27 April 2018 22:48 BST
Bill Cosby charged with indecent assault: women are 'finally believed in a court of law', says lawyer Gloria Allred

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction could lead to a wave of new cases against the ageing actor, legal experts have said.

The famed stand-up comedian and sitcom star was convicted in Pennsylvania on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against former basketball player Andrea Constand.

Dozens of women have also publicly accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them.

However, many did not speak out until the statute of limitations had expired, meaning the star could not be prosecuted.

After the star's guilty verdict, Daniel Medwed, a professor at Northeastern’s School of Law, said it may inspire other women to come forward – and encourage prosecutors to take note.

He told The Independent that the verdict "might embolden prosecutors to consider pursuing criminal action in their own jurisdictions."

Bill Cosby leaves court after being charged with three counts of indecent assault

Prosecutors weigh several factors when deciding whether or not to bring a case to court, he said.

Among those are whether the allegations can be proven, and – especially in the case of sexual assault – whether the trial process will be too traumatising for the plaintiff.

Prof Medwed described Cosby's conviction as "a little bit of a game changer, because it’s an empowering moment for victims."

He added: “You still might be dragged through the mud, but people are more open to hearing what you have to say and believing what you have to say.”

Other experts said a similar pattern could emerge in civil cases. At least 10 women have filed suit against Mr Cosby in recent years, alleging everything from sexual battery to defamation. He has denied any wrongdoing in these cases.

Attorney Paul DerOhannesian, an expert on sexual assault cases, said Cosby should expect the number of suits to increase.

Accusers may feel emboldened by Ms Constand’s victory, or may seek to take advantage of Cosby’s diminished legal standing, he said.

A felony conviction will negatively affect Cosby’s credibility in most civil cases and could also give complaints a “psychological advantage” in negotiations, he added.

In the defamation cases, Cosby’s prior statements painting his accusers as liars will be much more difficult to defend, he said.

If Cosby's lawyers plan to appeal his criminal case, their legal resources will be limited for the foreseeable future, Mr DerOhannesian added.

“He’s fighting a multipronged war,” DerOhannesian said. “He’s really going to be very stretched in terms of his legal defences.”

In the meantime, the Montgomery County district attorney has said he will fight to make Cosby cover the cost of the Constand trial.

Janice Baker Kinney – one of the women who testified during the trial about Cosby’s alleged behaviour – said she will keep encouraging women to speak up.

“This may be the end for Mr Cosby but this victory is just the beginning for many of us,” she said in a statement after the trial. “May this verdict open the floodgates to those who have been hiding their shame for far too long and give them the courage to come forward.”

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