Troubling Question: How Do Bill Cosby’s Attorneys Get Away With It?

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Posted in: Injury Law

If you had not noticed, the legal profession is protecting a serial rapist. (I am delighted to learn as I am submitting this column that my co-columnist Marci Hamilton has noticed.)

The ongoing reports about not-so-funny-comedian Bill Cosby are horrifying. He has been accused by some forty women of being a rapist. More specifically, the recurring charge has been that the women were drugged and then sexually assaulted by Cosby while unconscious or semi-conscious. These charges are not new, rather they go back at least a decade, and probably more. And now we have him under oath acknowledging it. But nothing much is happening about it.

To fight the rape charges, Cosby has relied for years on Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Martin Singer, who is well known for his aggressive tactics. The American Bar Association has called Singer a “pit bull for celebrities.” A New York Times profile of Singer broadly headlined him as a “Guard Dog to the Stars (Legally Speaking),” noting that clients like Sylvester Stallone (a.k.a. “Rocky”) says, “He’s ferocious and fearless, he really is.” In representing Cosby, Singer has certainly lived up to his reputation.

As rape charge after rape charge against Cosby surfaced, Martin Singer began attacking the women who were making the charges. He has called their claims ridiculous, raising the question of why so many women had waited so long to make their charges, all of which he denied in blanket fashion. Forty delusional women just happened to believe they had all been raped by Cosby in a similar fashion, according to Cosby’s counsel. Whenever possible, Singer found ways to trash these women, finding something in their past they would rather not read about in the newspapers.

The reason the women had not come forward was patently obvious. Cosby’s defense was the reason. Singer is not the only pit bull in Cosby’s corner. As the New York Times reported, none of these women wanted a powerful public figure like Cosby calling them a liar, for that is what he has done from the beginning. Because many of the women had professional careers, they only stood to ruin their lives by coming forward. Others were intimidated, as the Times noted, by “the aggressive legal and media strategy mounted by Mr. Cosby and his team.” Cosby has been able for the longest time to “hush” his victims, and his lawyers had been facilitating his defense, using and abusing the system.

Singer claimed, most recently for example, that “[t]he new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity.” He called the it “illogical” for so many women to have remained silent so long. Yet Singer knew rape claims against Cosby were anything but new. Singer was well aware that Cosby had earlier made a confidential settlement when sued for rape, sealing the lips of one victim by contract, for that woman also sued Singer over his false statements claiming she and her mother were extortionists. He apparently was included in the settlement, and she dropped her case against Singer.

Late last year, after Singer issued his blanket statement denying Cosby’s actions against over dozen women, Tamara Green, who had accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her in the early 1970s, filed a defamation lawsuit in federal court for “claiming that his public denials—and those of his lawyers and publicists—have unfairly painted her as a liar.” Green did not name Singer, rather Cosby’s earlier lawyer, Walter M. Phillips Jr., and his longtime publicist and spokesman, David Brokaw, who “publicly branded Defendant Green a liar.” Other women soon joined the action as well.

This defamation action by Green and other others, filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, MA, is currently before Judge Mark Mastroianni—an Obama appointee who has been on the bench a little over a year—who is considering motions filed by Cosby’s attorneys to dismiss the defamation actions, which were argued on June 22, 2015. Cosby’s attorney Martin Singer has filed a number of affidavits in this action for his client, which is being handled by lawyers with expertise in this area of law. Cosby is constantly adding new attorneys to his defense team, and pays for the best money can buy. Defamation lawsuits are just a little bit more difficult for plaintiffs (like the women offended by Cosby’s team for being called liars after being raped) than scaling glaciers, so it is a real long shot for the cases to go forward. Defamation law, as a way to protect one’s reputation in the United States, is all but dead.

Meanwhile, there has been the well-publicized and successful action by the Associated Press to open the record in an earlier suit against Cosby by Andrea Constand, another of his rape victims. The information, which Cosby’s attorneys tried to keep sealed, is devastating. They are records from a proceeding to sanction an earlier lawyer of Cosby’s, who purportedly improperly blocked and disrupted the taking of Cosby’s deposition—a deposition in which Cosby admitted to obtaining Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to a woman with whom he wanted to have sex! The documents reveal not only Cosby’s attorneys’ pit bull modus operandi, but also confirm Cosby’s all-but-admitted modus operandi to rape women.

I understand the rights of all Americans to have a zealous defense by an attorney, but what baffles me—and I do not raise this to point a finger but to understand—is how can these very public and abusive tactics by attorneys, who are operating under various rules of professional conduct, justify their actions. Martin Singer is a California attorney subject to the California Code of Professional Conduct (CPC). Where in that code is the provision that authorizes assuming forty women are delusional in claiming rape by Cosby, and publicly attacking them? Or where does that code enable him to openly write a letter to CNN that was correctly noted by CNN as “remarkably dishonest?” How can the California CPC’s Rule 5-120 restricting pretrial publicity be ignored to issue an outrageous statement denying the statements of women who finally had the courage to call Cosby a rapist? When does the crime/fraud exception to the attorney–client privilege come into play in a situation like Cosby’s?

Do the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which appear to advise lawyers against the very type of activity by attorneys who have been protecting Cosby for so long, not trouble the conscience of team after team of attorneys who play pit bull to keep this man out of jail? Do any of these lawyers go home at night—they have been both male and female—concerned that they are facilitating a serial rapist? Is the new silence of his legal team following the latest public revelation about Cosby using Quaaludes to knockout his victims merely the latest strategy—time to hunker down to let this pass?

I wish I could answer these questions. I would feel better, for I am stunned that the legal profession can use the media to defame one woman after the next, when they were raped by Cosby. It is horrifying that money is all it takes for a rich sexual predator to beat the system. The only encouraging news is that the Los Angeles Police Department has finally awakened from its inattention to Cosby’s serial bad behavior.

  • Thank you, John Dean. And if Cosby’s legal team doesn’t sue you for slander, it speaks volumes.

  • roy black

    I would be curious to know the test you propose to determine when people are entitled to a lawyer and to defend themselves. Cosby has never been convicted of a crime and it seems he has a right to defend himself. The accusations against him have all been highly publicized. Some of the women hired Gloria Allred to conduct press conferences yet you claim that Cosby can’t fight back in the media. He has to remain silent in the face of the allegations and thus appear guilty. So I ask what standard are you using to determine when people can defend themselves.

  • I’m concerned that my thoughts on this topic may result in accusations that I am in some sense defending Bill Cosby. It is quite clear that what he did was wrong, certainly in a moral sense and probably in a criminal sense, too. However, I think that the closest approach to a “correct solution” at this late date would be something along the lines of what Dave Letterman did, though there are vast difference in the two situation. Bill Cosby needs to publicly admit that he did the wrong deeds, and he should provide some details while attempting not to provide further injury to the women who were involved. In Bill Cosby’s case, I also think he should probably go bankrupt due to morally appropriate compensations that are due to the victims–but I won’t bet on it going that far…

    There are two problems I have with the accusations against Bill Cosby. One of them could be described as post facto crimes, and the other is the mutuality of the moral culpability. Actually, I think the mutual aspect of the situation is the main reason that that has allowed the issues to remain under the rug for so long. I’m NOT accusing or suggesting that the women should be denigrated in any way, but what I have been looking for and not finding is evidence that Bill Cosby was pursuing women who were too stupid or ignorant to understand what he was after–and I haven’t seen any clear evidence along those lines. I conclude that many and probably most of these women understood that “friendship” with Bill Cosby could be advantageous, and the accepted that friendship. I don’t think he ever had to resort to threats or coercion to get his way. I certainly think that the use of drugs can be regarded as a form of physical coercion, but I regard tobacco and alcohol and drugs, too, so quaaludes or other drugs are basically more modern forms of the same old tricks. (However, violation of drug laws would certainly be a good grounds for imprisonment.)

    The post facto aspect is quite a bit more complicated, but i see ‘sexual predator’ as basically a relabeling of what used to be called ‘a ladies man’. At the time when Bill Cosby was engaging in his sexual exploits, behaviors that we would now regard as sexual predation would regarded as routine or even admirable. Not admired by me, personally, but I certainly knew (and still know) men whose basic reaction is envy. In a sense, I think we have made substantial social progress in that this sort of behavior is now clearly regarded as wrong and even illegal in civilized jurisdictions.

    There are some remaining points of curiosity, especially about what his wife knew and the degree to which the women were misled about the content of their drinks, but overall the main effect has been a loss of my personal regard for Bill Cosby. He was never my favorite comedian, but at this point I can’t be amused by even his funniest material. The associated negative feelings completely negate the humor.

    • pearl

      He put drugs in the coffee of some of them. Surely no woman is expecting her coffee to be drugged. Drugged to the point of paralysis, to unconsciousness. Read all of their stories. Not all of them knew “what he was after.” What about the woman who thought she was meeting him for a job interview who he “with lightening like precision” stood between her and a locked door and forced her to perform oral sex on him? He didn’t drug her. He just horribly violated her and destroyed her trust. Also, many of them weren’t even drinkers, but he would INSIST and pressure them to drink something. You soft peddle this all pretty well. Dude, he’s one of the most prolific rapists in the U.S.A. and that is no small feat. Read their stories, listen to their voices, they express nuance. This wasn’t “routine” or “ladies’ man” stuff. He was a sick, twisted individual. This wasn’t okay in any era.

  • Mr Lizard

    You who else was opposed to people employing effective counsel?…

  • T-Berry

    I think calling him a “suspected serial rapist” is appropriate here. I defer judgments to the court.

  • Subsidiary comment is that people evidently should not correct any typos in their comments… However, I’m sure Mr Dean is quite busy and I certainly understand the low priority of moderating Justia comments, though I’m not sure why he can’t delegate that task to someone or even to a trusted volunteer. This actually returns to one of my favorite old topics, celebrity email systems to allow famous people to use email without having their valuable time abused by it…

  • Kathy Darrow

    The women accusing Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them waited decades to come forward until the statute of limitations expired. None of them appear to have reported the alleged crimes to the police or went for physical exams or tox screens. No one denied them justice. Their stories are devoid of many details, which render them implausible and illogical. Many only give a specific year or a decade that the alleged assault occurred. They refuse to answer further questions and regard any challenge to their stories to be victim-blaming or shaming. Their supporters have provided reasons for their failure to report the alleged crimes in a timely manner, such as they were too traumatized and fearful, Cosby was too powerful (in the 1960s and ’70s?), and no one would have believed them anyway (were they clairvoyant?). Therefore, the public is simply expected to condemn Mr. Cosby based on their statements alone. And with the help of biased media coverage, they have. A firestorm of fury resulted in efforts to scrub his presence from society. He is faulted for not simply defending himself in the media (why won’t he proclaim his innocence?), yet when he does, he is sued for defamation. His words in the deposition from the Constand lawsuit, which both parties settled, have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something different (no, he did not admit or confess to drugging women to rape them). But what about the two recent cases? Chloe Goins alleges that Bill Cosby assaulted her on a specific date, August 9, 2008, the night of the Midsummer Night’s Dream party at the Playboy Mansion. Yet there is evidence that he was on the East coast at the time. Should she be allowed to just keep picking dates until she finds one for which he has no alibi? Judy Huth’s suit has similar factual flaws. If her story doesn’t fly, how many times will she revise it? Does this matter to anyone? In this country, I believe it should. With one pending case, no rape charges, and no convictions, the proclamations that he is a rapist are unjust and defamatory. The accusers waited decades; the rush to condemn him absent any verified evidence is premature and contrary to our system of justice.

  • Cindy

    If you are going to outright claim a man a rapist without valid evidence on nothing more than the gossip of women are you any better? Cosby has a right to deny the allegations, his attorneys have a right to defend him. If these women and Allred had not gone media crazy maybe these inconsistent and fabricated stories would not have been subject to the alleged ill treatment you claim. Maybe you should be tagging Gloria Allred for bringing them falsely and ruthlessly before the camera and in multiple interviews, was it in their best interest or for her own gain.