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Bill Cosby’s prior Quaalude confession may have legal repercussions

According to the Associated Press, Bill Cosby testified in 2005 that he obtained Quaaludes with the intent of using them to have sex with women. More than two dozen women have accused Cosby in cases that go back decades. Jeffrey Brown learns more from Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press and Eric Deggans of NPR.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now a closer look at those new revelations in the Bill Cosby story.

    Documents were released yesterday that found the comedian admitted in court back in 2005 that he gave sedative-type drugs to women he wanted to have sex with. More than two dozen women have accused Cosby of rape in cases that go back decades, and others have said they woke up after blacking out following use of drugs and alcohol.

    Cosby’s alleged use of drugs has been central in some of those allegations.

    Jeffrey Brown picks up the story from there.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Cosby’s own words came from a deposition in a case brought in 2005 by an employee of Temple University. She’d accused Cosby of drugging and molesting her. That case was settled and the testimony sealed, until the judge released it yesterday to the Associated Press.

    There were immediate public repercussions and potential future legal consequences.

    We’re joined by AP reporter Maryclaire Dale, who broke the story, and NPR’s television and culture writer, Eric Deggans.

    Maryclaire Dale, start first and remind us, if you would, a little bit about the case that this came from and the particulars of the deposition.

  • MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press:

    Sure.

    This case dates back 10 years, when a Temple University employee accused Cosby, as you said, of drugging and molesting her at his home, where she had gone to a dinner seeking career advice. She worked for the basketball team, and says that, after dinner, she took three pills from Cosby, which he said was herbal medication for stress.

    In his deposition, parts of which were unsealed yesterday, he said that the drug was Benadryl. Her lawyers don’t believe that, and asked Cosby about other drugs and prescriptions he may have taken over the years. And he admitted in the deposition that he used quaaludes and obtained them in the ’70s for the purpose of using them to have sex with women.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And then — but then he stopped short of saying that he did it without their consent, right? I mean, there’s a point in the deposition where he gets asked that and his lawyer steps in.

  • MARYCLAIRE DALE:

    That’s right, and that’s the key point here. We really do only have small portions of the deposition.

    What happened was Cosby’s lawyers were objecting and interfering, according to the woman’s lawyer, as she questioned Cosby, so she stopped the proceeding and went to court and asked the judge to compel him and his legal team to cooperate. And that’s called the motion to compel. That, along with the sanctions motions she filed, is what the judge unsealed yesterday.

    So, again, we see some excerpts, but oftentimes we see the question that was asked, such as, did the women knowingly take these drugs? Cosby didn’t answer. I believe he didn’t answer that question entirely, and he didn’t say how many women he would have given the quaaludes to.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And one more question to you on the particular deposition, because it’s very interesting to see the way the judge framed this in unsealing it.

  • He pointed very specifically to Bill Cosby’s public role, and he said:

    “The stark contrast between Bill Cosby the public moralist and Bill Cosby the subject of serious allegations concerning improper and perhaps criminal conduct is a matter to which the AP and, by extension, the public has a significant interest.”

  • MARYCLAIRE DALE:

    Right.

    Cosby’s lawyers had argued that privacy was at issue here and that, even though he was an entertainer, he was entitled to some degree of privacy. But the judge apparently believed he had gone somewhat beyond that, accepting the AP’s argument that he wasn’t just a normal entertainer, but somebody who had spoken out about family life, education, morality in our public life.

    And the judge said he therefore had somewhat a lesser degree of privacy, and that the public had an interest in seeing what his sworn deposition testimony was and how that compared to his moralizing.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, so, Eric Deggans, let me bring you in here. These charges of course have been around for some time, but this particular — the deposition becoming public seems to have had immediate impact, right, including on supporters of Cosby.

  • ERIC DEGGANS, NPR:

    I think so.

    Before this, we had many women coming forward, as many as 40, to say that they felt that they had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in various ways. But these are words that presumably came from his own mouth.

    And we saw, for example, Jill Scott, an R&B singer who’s well-known, she had defended Cosby in October and November, when the public first really started to take a look at these charges or these allegations. And now, since this deposition has been released, she has recanted that support and said that she just needed to see some kind of proof, she called it.

    And for her, seeing Cosby admit that he had obtained quaaludes for the purpose of having sex with women was enough. And I think for some people who were on the fence about some of the allegations that have been made about him, that may pull them off the fence to say, maybe he didn’t sexually assault these women in the way that he’s being accused of, but something happened here that’s counter to the image, the wholesome image that Bill Cosby’s always had.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Because, I mean, in the larger arc of this, Eric, there has been a sense and some criticism that Cosby may have gotten a — too much of a pass, right, from people in the entertainment world and the media.

  • ERIC DEGGANS:

    Certainly.

    And, as was pointed out, this was a lawsuit from 2005. The allegations, I think, surfaced in 2004. And — but people didn’t really take a close look at this, I think, in the wider world until just last October. We saw a stand-up comic, Hannibal Buress, include in his act, you know, criticizing Bill Cosby for moralizing, when he has these allegations in his past.

    And it was almost the voice of young black comedy saying, you know, how can this guy be an elder statesman for comics and morality, when he has this in his past? And it caused, I think, a groundswell, where people looked at these past allegations, more women came forward, and then we saw NBC and other showbiz entities sort of step back and end their associations with him.

    And I think that’s going to continue in the wake of this latest revelation.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, Maryclaire Dale, just briefly, if you would, what about the legal consequences here in terms of how the deposition becoming public might play out?

  • MARYCLAIRE DALE:

    Right.

    Some women — three women who are suing him for defamation in Boston, saying that when he said that — denied their accusations, he basically branded them liars, they believe this will bolster their claims that he had defamed them.

    And I don’t think any criminal charges will ensue, necessarily. Many of the claims are too old to be brought criminally, but I know there are a few — also, in California, Gloria Allred is bring a civil sex assault case. And she is hoping that the courts will uphold that. Cosby of course is trying to get that thrown out of court.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Maryclaire Dale and Eric Deggans, thank you both so much.

  • MARYCLAIRE DALE:

    Thank you.

  • ERIC DEGGANS:

    Thank you.

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