U.S. judge tosses Baldwin woman's defamation case against Cosby
January 21, 2016 11:36 PM
A judge threw out the defamation suit brought by Renita Hill of Baldwin Borough against comedian Bill Cosby.
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A federal judge Thursday threw out a defamation suit brought by a local woman against Bill Cosby.
Renita Hill, 48, of Baldwin Borough had sued in the fall, saying Mr. Cosby defamed her when he, his wife and his lawyer issued public statements denying allegations that he had sexually abused women and suggesting his accusers were liars out for money.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning she can’t file it again. The judge sided with the comedian’s lawyers, who argued that the statements are protected free speech and not defamatory.
Attorney George Kontos said he and his client were disappointed and would appeal the decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We feel strongly that our claims are valid,” he said. Mr. Cosby’s lawyers didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Hill accused Mr. Cosby in 2014 of sexual assault 30 years ago when she was an aspiring actress. She said she brought the allegations because she felt emboldened by other women who had come forward.
She said he drugged her and had sex with her after they met on a TV show in the early 1980s when she was 16.
For four years, she said, he flew her around the country to cities where he was performing so he could have sex with her in hotel rooms.
Ms. Hill initially sued Mr. Cosby in Common Pleas Court, saying he defamed her when he and his representatives suggested in a statement and two media interviews that the women making accusations were extortionists. The case was later transferred to federal court.
Mr. Cosby’s lawyers said that the denials were opinions protected under the First Amendment and that none of them addressed Ms. Hill in any way.
“A lawyer’s denial of public accusations of liability, without any mention of [Hill] or her specific story, is simply not actionable as defamation,” the lawyers argued.
Judge Schwab agreed.
Although many women have said Mr. Cosby abused them, all of the allegations are too old to bring criminal charges except one.
In that case, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office last month charged Mr. Cosby with assaulting a woman at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1504.