After a two-week trial, a plaintiff’s attorney urged jurors on Wednesday to hold Bill Cosby financially responsible for sexually molesting a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion 47 years ago.
Nathan Goldberg argued that Cosby should be forced to pay millions of dollars for the assault on Judy Huth, who is now 64.
“He hasn’t paid for what he did. He’s gotten away with it,” Goldberg argued. “It’s your job to hold him accountable.”
The 12-person jury is scheduled to begin deliberating on Thursday in Santa Monica Superior Court. Huth filed the suit in 2014, but her case was delayed for several years by Cosby’s criminal proceedings. The 84-year-old comedian was freed last year after serving nearly three years in prison, when his conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In her closing argument, Cosby’s attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, alluded to the slew of other allegations that have been made against him. But she urged the jurors to set that aside and focus on Huth’s credibility, arguing that Huth simply had failed to prove her case.
“Doing what is right isn’t always popular, and doing what is popular isn’t always right,” Bonjean said. “I am not going to credit someone’s story simply because we live in times when ‘if she says it, it must be true.’ No.”
Gesturing toward the reporters in the audience, she added, “The media can do that, and they do.”
Cosby did not attend the trial, and jurors saw only a brief glimpse of him in portions of a videotaped deposition.
The case instead focused on the accounts of Huth, her friend Donna Samuelson, who accompanied her to the mansion, and two supporting witnesses, Marjorie Shapiro and Kimberly Burr, who tested about their own sexual assault allegations against Cosby from the same time period.
Huth and Samuelson testified that Cosby brought them to the mansion after a chance encounter at a park. Huth alleged that Cosby lured her to a bedroom, and then tried to force himself on her. When she resisted, saying she was on her period, he then pulled down his sweatpants and forced her to masturbate him, she tested.
Huth was allowed to bring her lawsuit so many years after the fact under a California law that allows victims of childhood sexual abuse to file suit once they become fully aware of its psychological effects.
Huth’s age at the time of the incident has been a critical issue in the case. Initially, she claimed she was 15. But on the eve of trial, she said she had reviewed evidence and had concluded that she must have been 16.
In her argument, Bonjean argued that Huth had shaped her story in hopes of scoring a financial windfall. She also maintained that the plaintiffs had not proven that Cosby knew at the time of the incident that Huth and her friend were underage — a key element of the offense.
“These are young women that didn’t present as children or even young teenagers,” Bonjean said, showing photos from the time. “They looked like a lot of other young women at the Playboy Mansion.”
Goldberg countered that Samuelson had recalled Cosby telling them both at the mansion that if anyone asked, they should say they were both 18 — suggesting he knew that they were not.
Goldberg also showed the jury a photo of Huth from 1975 in which she appeared quite young, as well as two photos of Cosby with Huth at the mansion.
“What is the reason that he brought her there?” he asked. “Was he looking for new friends to make? They were there because he wanted to engage in sex and he didn’t care whether they were minors or not.”
He also argued that while memories have faded a bit over the years, Huth has always been consistent about what happened to her.
“She’s never varied from that,” he said.
Bonjean argued that Huth and Samuelson had coordinated their stories, noting that both Huth and Samuelson separately claimed to have seen a Donkey Kong arcade game at the mansion, even though Donkey Kong was not released until the early 1980s.
This came to be known as the “Donkey Kong defense,” and Bonjean referenced it at the end of her argument, displaying an arcade-style “GAME OVER” logo for the jury.
In his rebuttal, Goldberg took offense at that.
“Game over?” he asked. “Is this what it’s about for the defense? A game?”
The two lawyers sniped at each other at several points during closing arguments. Bonjean objected when Goldberg said that a defense expert “seemed like a nice lady” and “had a nice smile” — arguing that she was a doctor and he was being disrespectful to her.
Bonjean also took issue when Goldberg displayed photos of each of the accusers at a young age, juxtaposed with Cosby at 37 — his age at the time of the accusations. Goldberg eventually objected to Bonjean’s objections, and accused her of being “as rude to the witnesses as you are to me.”
“Is this about me?” she asked. “Why don’t you put my picture up there?”
“Yeah, I’ll put your picture up there with ‘game over,’” Goldberg shot back.
Earlier in the day, jurors saw a videotaped deposition of Hugh Hefner from 2016, taken about a year before he died. Hefner, the last witness of the case, testified that he was close friends with Cosby in the 1970s, and he never saw Cosby with underage girls at the mansion. He was also asked if minors were ever allowed at the mansion.
“That would be very unusual,” Hefner said.
Nine of the 12 jurors must agree to reach a verdict. The plaintiffs must prove their case by a “preponderance” of the evidence — not the higher “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal court.
Goldberg suggested they should award $1 million to $2 million of damages for each of four years of emotional suffering — or $4 million to $8 million total — though he said it would be up to the jurors to decide what is fair.