After his conviction for sexual assault in a Pennsylvania court, famed entertainer Bill Cosby faces many years in jail. But this may not be the only punishment he will face. Experts believe that the conviction could lead to many civil lawsuits, in which women he both assaulted and defamed could sue him for significant sums of money.
On Thursday, a jury convicted Cosby — who is now 80 years old — of assaulting Andrea Constand more than a decade ago. He faces 10 years imprisonment for each count of indecent aggravated assault, though the sentences could be given concurrently.
So far, around 60 women have accused the former star of the hit series “The Cosby Show” of assaulting them, often with aid of drugs. Though only Constand’s accusation resulted in criminal proceedings because the others were beyond the statue of limitations. Cosby has continually denied any wrongdoing.
At the moment, it is believed that around 10 women have filed civil claims against Cosby, in both California and Massachusetts. These lawsuits alone could result in millions of dollars in damages. Attorneys representing Cosby in these suits have not commented about them. But Gloria Allred, who is a famous defense lawyer representing one of Cosby’s alleged victims, says that — if the lawsuit goes to trial — she will definitely introduce Cosby’s conviction as evidence. She says that she believes that his conviction will certainly sway a jury in her client’s favor.
In civil suits, attorneys representing the women will only have to demonstrate a preponderance of evidence to support their claims, which requires a far lower threshold of belief than what is required to convict someone in a criminal court, in which a jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of someone’s guilt.
Lynne Abraham, who was once a district attorney and who is now working in private practice for a firm called Archer, believes that the conviction could lead other women to accuse Cosby, because it will give these women courage to believe that they will prevail in court.
Douglas Wigdor, who is a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in sexual harassment lawsuits, says that judges do not always allow evidence of past behavior as evidence in these suits. He says that there must be a clear pattern of such behavior. In Cosby’s trial, 5 other women testified against the actor, saying that he drugged and assaulted them as well.