Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bill Cosby and possible criminal charges?

Will criminal charges be brought against Bill Cosby?

Statute of Limitations
The law is in large part driven by time.  Most civil claims and criminal charges cannot be brought after a certain period of time has passed.  Although people sometimes complain about this aspect of the law, in a recent International Business Times article, New York attorney, Stuart Slotnick, says, “’ That’s a fundamental concept in our legal system, that people can’t be questioned for things that happened decades ago.  One of the reasons for the statute of limitations is that if an accuser makes a claim, then the person who was accused will have a very difficult time going back 10, 15, 20 years to defend themselves because evidence and witnesses may be gone.’”
To date, charges have never been brought against Cosby, and, unless more recent allegedly criminal acts occurred, it is unlikely charges will ever be bought.

Lack of Evidence
Unless obtained right away, physical evidence is difficult to procure.  Alleged rape victims often have a difficult time getting their cases heard and bringing charges against their attackers.  Victims of rape are often reluctant to come forward for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, retribution, social stigma and unresponsiveness of authority figures, resulting in a dearth of evidence.  Even when an alleged victim comes forward and charges are brought it is still one person’s word against another’s. 
 2005 Decision Not to Prosecute and 2006 Civil Settlement
 In 2005, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania district attorney, Bruce Castor, chose not to prosecute Cosby for the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand.  Castor cited a lack of evidence, and he said he would not act on the accusations. 

Civil cases require a preponderance of evidence which is much lower than the criminal standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.  In November 2006, Cosby settled a civil law suit with Constand.  The settlement terms remain confidential.

Future Criminal Charges and Civil Liability Unlikely
 When it comes to future criminal charges Bill Cosby appears to be in the clear.  Criminal laws vary from state as do the requisite statutes of limitations.  The dozen plus women who have come forward thus far, however, all alleged sexual assaults that occurred well outside of the statute of limitations.  Therefore, it appears criminal charges are time barred.
Even if new claims arise, unless evidence was obtained at the time of the alleged incident, there is a proof problem because rape is so difficult to prove without direct physical proof and strong testimony.  Likewise, Cosby and his attorneys will have a myriad of resources and defenses at their disposal to torpedo such charges.  Namely, they will be able to argue the victims just want money.

Civil claims are likely time barred as well as the respective statutes of limitations ran long ago.  Again, there are proof problems here as well.

Damage to Bill Cosby’s Legacy
Unless all of these accusations are false, Bill Cosby’s reputation is irrevocably damaged.  Gone is the image of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, who imparted wisdom with love and humor.  Suffice it to say, there is now a wide gulf between Cliff Huxtable and Bill Cosby.  The iconic Cosby Show, which ran on television in perpetuity is now off the air, banished from the collective American lexicon.  A recent Washington Post article, “Bill Cosby’s legacy, recast: Accusers speak in detail about sexual assault allegations” chronicles Cosby’s career back to his early days in the 1960s.   It is not a particularly flattering picture, and Cosby’s past will likely receive even more scrutiny.  This story is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Cosby is already suffering financially as reruns of the Cosby Show have been pulled from the air, comedy shows canceled and his attempted comeback stymied.  Even though criminal and civil liability do not appear likely, Cosby is forever damaged, and the repercussions will be (and are) an unprecedented fall from grace and public scorn for the rest of his life.  More troubling, however, is the suffering inflicted upon his alleged victims, who will have to live with it for the rest of their lives with no recourse other than to tell the truth.



  1. From a legal standpoint, is there any recourse for actors who'd otherwise stand to have made money by having the Cosby Show continue to air for years and years? Thanks to Cosby's situation, that show (and other shows/events where his name was attached) stood to bring in $$$, but now will not likely see the light of day. Just curious..

  2. I doubt it as it wasn't contemplated in the original contract. Also, the contract is probably written in a way to not guarantee anything.