PHILADELPHIA – Bill Cosby’s legal and public-relations strategy took a sharp turn this week with word that he has sued the accuser in a criminal sexual-assault case against him for talking to police.
Cosby wants accuser Andrea Constand to return the money he paid her to settle her 2005 civil lawsuit because she sat for an interview last year with police who reopened the case. Cosby said that violates the confidentiality agreement she signed to not talk about the case.
Criminal defence lawyer David Walker, who is not involved in the case, has followed Cosby’s fall from grace and said the TV star’s strategy “makes him look like a bully.”
“(He’s thinking), ‘I paid her to be quiet, and now she’s not being quiet, so now I’m going to sue her, now I’m going to harass her,'” Walker said. “I can’t see anything positive that comes from it.”
Cosby has kept lawyers busy in several states this past year as he fights the criminal case in Pennsylvania, pursues defamation suits against accusers in Massachusetts and California and now files a breach-of-contract suit against Constand, her mother and her lawyers.
The suit said Constand had no legal duty to co-operate with Pennsylvania authorities because she lives in Canada. The interviews she and her mother gave to investigators last year were therefore “voluntary” and violated the settlement terms, the suit said.
“Despite being under no legal obligation to discuss any aspects of the events and allegations, … and despite being expressly prohibited from disclosing such information to anyone, Andrea Constand volunteered to participate and disclosed such information to the district attorney and others,” Cosby’s lawyers wrote in a redacted version of the Feb. 1 lawsuit that was filed Thursday.
Cosby, who’s 78, played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992 and has been married for decades. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of sexually assaulting Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He has not entered a plea, but his lawyers have vowed to clear his name.
Constand, 43, was a basketball team employee at Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, but is now a massage therapist in Toronto.
Cosby’s lawsuit names Constand’s mother and lawyers as defendants because they also co-operated with Montgomery County authorities last year. The suit accuses them of inviting media coverage or making public statements about the case.
Constand’s lawyers have said the agreement has a provision that allows them to speak to law enforcement. Any such prohibition would amount to obstruction on the part of the lawyers who drafted it, Constand lawyer Dolores Troiani testified this month, when Cosby first appeared in court for a pretrial hearing in the criminal case.
Cosby filed the sealed breach-of-contract suit a day before that hearing.
The lawsuit is Cosby’s latest counterattack against complaints from dozens of women that he drugged and molested them. Through lawyers, he has called at least some of the accusations “discredited.”
The lawsuit filed against Constand seeks the repayment of the still-secret settlement he paid her in 2006, plus interest. He also seeks damages from Constand, her mother, her two lawyers and the parent company of the National Enquirer, which has published numerous stories on the case.
Cosby, the lawsuit said, has suffered “serious and irreparable harm” and should be compensated by damages “to be proven at trial.”
Troiani declined to comment Thursday on behalf of herself or Constand. However, in filing a response to Cosby’s bid to keep the case sealed, she and partner Bebe Kivitz said they want to defend the lawsuit in public to respond to charges that they engaged in unethical or potentially criminal acts.
“Cosby is requesting the court permit him to make accusations and statements regarding the underlying settlement while restricting the ability of the public to scrutinize those accusations,” their response said.
A lawyer for the National Enquirer’s publisher, Boca Raton, Florida-based American Media Inc., did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they’ve been sexually assaulted unless they agree to have their names published, as Constand has done.
This story has been corrected to show Cosby has filed defamation suits against accusers in Springfield, Massachusetts, not in Boston and Pittsburgh.