Accusations of sexual assault against comedian Bill Cosby are alleged to have started back as far as the 1960s, when Cosby’s career was just starting to take off. It is also around this time, while Cosby was on the road doing comedy, mostly in Sin City, that he allegedly began to sexually assault many, many women.
From 1965 to 1968, he starred in the drama I Spy. Cosby was the first African American actor to co-star in an American dramatic series; for which he won an Emmy three years in a row. He won his fist Grammy for best comedy performance for the album, I Started Out as a Child in 1965
It was about this time that Bill Cosby’s stand-up career started to shine. He was making $30,000 a week in Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe (around $240,000 today). Cosby was also making $5,000 a night ($40,000) for random shows.
1960s to 2010s: Bill Cosby Rape Allegations: A History of Denials
Gossip and innuendos about Cosby’s sordid past have been around for years. When asked in a November 2014 interview to comment on the many sexual assault allegations he faced over the years, Cosby said, quite conveniently, “I don’t talk about it.”
He was forced to address the allegations just one year later. In December 2015, Bill Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault on Andrea Constand for an incident that took place at Cosby’s Pennsylvania home in early 2004.
While the statute of limitations ran out for many women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them (many states have limitations of 10 years or less), in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse is 12 years.
This allowed Constand to press charges against The Cosby Show star. It also represents the first criminal charges of sexual assault levied against Cosby.
This opened a floodgate of accusations from women who felt courageous enough to tell their own tales of sexual assault that came at the hands of Bill Cosby; many who also allege they were drugged.
The magnitude of Cosby’s history of alleged sexually assault reached its peak in the summer of 2015, when 35 of the then 46 women (now 59) who accused Cosby of sexual assault appeared on the cover of the July 27 issue of New York Magazine.
There is one empty chair on the cover, representing the women who did not come forward for the story.
So far, 46 women have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, in some cases, according to a recently unsealed deposition, with the aid of quaaludes—a powerful sedative that can render a person functionally immobile. But these allegations are by no means new, with some stretching back decades—to a time when the culture of rape in America left victims little recourse but to suffer silently, and in shame. Today, the way we think and talk about rape has evolved, creating a safer space for survivors to feel empowered by speaking up and reclaiming their victimhood. And that’s led us here. Of the 46 women who have come forward to accuse Cosby, we spoke to 35 of them — “a sorrowful sisterhood” of women united by their dark experiences, steadfast in their resolve to remain silent no more. Read more: nymag.com/cosby-women. 📷: Amanda Demme
A Timeline of Sexual Assault Allegations
The earliest accusations of being drugged and raped started in the mid-1960s, right when Cosby was taking television and the stand-up circuit by storm…and the money was flowing. Below are just a small fraction of the approximately 60 women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them.
1965: Kristina Ruehli
Kristina Ruehli’s accusations against Cosby date back the furthest, to 1965. The then 22-year old met Cosby while working as a secretary for a talent agency called Artists Agency Corp. Their clients included George Burns, Bob Culp, and Bill Cosby.
Cosby invited her back to his home where Ruehli says she passed out after two drinks. When she woke up on his bed, Cosby had his shirt off and just unzipped his pants and tried to force her into oral sex.
Ruehli says that she told her boyfriend about the attempted rape at the time, and later told her daughter in the 1980s. She did not go public with it until 2005 in the Andrea Constand case as Jane Doe #12.
1969: Joan Tarshis
Joan Tarshis says that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1969 when she was trying to get into acting. The then 19-year-old maintains that on one occasion, Cosby forced her to perform oral sex; on another, he drugged and raped her. Tarshis told her story to John Milward, a freelance writer in the early 1980s. He confirmed her story but never wrote about them.
1969: Victoria Valentino
Victoria Valentino, a Playboy Bunny and Playmate, was introduced to Bill Cosby by her friend and fellow Playmate, Francesca Emerson. Valentino says that in 1969, Cosby offered her a white pill one night in a Hollywood Hills apartment, and then raped her. She did not report the rape at the time, but gave a videotaped interview years later for a video being made on the lives of Playboy models. It, too, was never published.
2000: Lachele Covington
Fast forward to 2000. Lachele Covington, 20, an actress and model who appears on The Cosby Show, says the actor invited her to his place in Manhattan for dinner on January 28, 2000.
According to her February 1, 2000 complaint filed with the Manhattan Special Victims Bureau, Cosby tried to put her hands down his pants; he then exposed himself. She also says that Cosby grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hands down her pants. Police passed her complaint onto the D.A., but they decided not to prosecute.
2004: Andrea Constand
Allegations against Bill Cosby moved forward after Andrea Constand told her story. She was like many of Cosby’s other victims; she was young, attractive, and saw Cosby as a friend and mentor.
The professional basketball player from Toronto was invited to Temple University by her friend, Dawn Staley, then coach of the women’s basketball team, who hired her as director of operations.
Cosby, who was in his mid-60s, was a graduate of Temple University and former basketball player. He was also in the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame and its board of trustees.
It was in this orbit that Constand became acquainted with Cosby. Early on, Cosby admitted he was romantically interested in the 30-year old Constand. He allegedly did not know that Constand is a lesbian.
She, meanwhile, saw their relationship as nothing more than a “sincere friendship” that included socializing at Cosby’s house in Philadelphia and Manhattan, going to dinner, and exchanging gifts. Constand said Cosby tried to hit on her twice, but she rebuffed his sexual advances.
In January 2004, Cosby reportedly invited Constand to his place to discuss her broadcasting career. When she got there, she told Cosby she was stressed because of work. As is his M.O., Cosby gave her three pills to help her relax.
Constand soon felt dizzy and unable to walk. Cosby led her to a sofa and laid her down. He then started to sexually assault her. She woke up hours later with her clothes and underwear “in disarray.”
She drove herself home and decided not to report the incident to police; citing Cosby’s fame and her position as the basketball administrator at Temple as the reasons. Instead, she contacted a lawyer who specializes with sexual assaults.
Constand returned to Canada three months later, and moved in with her parents while she trained to be a massage therapist. In January 2005, one year after the alleged rape took place, Andrea told her parents Cosby had sexually assaulted her.
They went to police in her native Ontario on January 13, 2005, telling investigators that Cosby sexually assaulted her a year earlier. The information was passed onto police in Pennsylvania, but after a month long investigation, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania D.A. Bruce Castor Jr. said charges would not be laid due to “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”
Castor did, however, encourage Constand to seek “civil remedies.”
Cosby denied Constand’s allegations and said they were “preposterous.” At the same time, though, Andrea’s mother called Cosby to ask if the accusations were true. He admitted sexual contact occurred, and said he would cover any expenses related to therapy and her education goals.
2005: Andrea Constand Sues Bill Cosby
Constand decided to sue Cosby, alleging battery, assault, infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and invasion of privacy. She also alleged that Cosby “digitally penetrated her.”
By the time Constand filed her civil suit against Cosby, 13 women came forward as Jane Doe witnesses. Instead of going to trial, Cosby paid Constand roughly $3.5 million in hush money, and for her to go away.
And she did. For the last 10-years, Constand lived quietly in Toronto.
2014: Another Comedian Brings the Rapes Back to the Public Eye
In 2014, something interesting happened; a comedian made a joke with a bit of commentary. Hannibal Buress was a rising star in stand up comedy, selling plenty of tickets, and making a good living doing it. As part of his set, he made a joke that was aimed directly at Bill Cosby.
“Bill Cosby has the f****n’ smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the ‘80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”
Buress often ended this bit by telling the audience that if they Googled “Bill Cosby rape,” they would find significantly more links than if they Googled “Hannibal Buress.”
A Youtube video of the joke went viral, leading many people who saw it to do exactly what Buress suggested: Searched information on the allegations against Cosby. As the video passed from person to person online, more people began to vocally support Cosby’s victims.
While Buress is not the reason why the case against Cosby was reopened (Buress himself won’t take any credit for it), there is no doubt that his stand up routine increased public knowledge of Cosby’s allegations.
2015: Case against Cosby Reopened
Constand’s case against Bill Cosby was reopened in 2015 because new evidence surfaced when the records from the previously sealed-civil suit against him were released. In it, Cosby admitted giving women Quaaludes to have sex with them.
While the disposition does not say that Cosby gave Quaaludes to women who were not consenting, his admissions added fuel to the fire. For years, Cosby’s accusers said they were drugged and sexually assaulted. And the unsealed disposition supports these allegations.
Lawyers acted quickly, bringing fresh charges against Cosby at the end of 2015 because the statute of limitations was set to expire in 2016. Cosby’s well-heeled legal team tried to get the charges dismissed, saying Cosby was protected under a 2005 agreement he made with the Montgomery County District Attorney that he would “never be prosecuted.”
That was then.
Castor’s successor, Kevin R. Steele, said he was not bound by Castor’s previous decision and did not care about a civil settlement.
“Reopening was not a question,” Steele said. “Reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers…We examined all the evidence and we made this determination because it was the right thing to do.”
Steele said he believes that Cosby drugged and assaulted Constand. He also holds that the pattern of misconduct led him to bring new criminal charges. “That man,” Steele said, “is a serial abuser. He selects his victims, he gives them an intoxicant and he assaults them.”
2017: Bill Cosby Faces a Criminal Trial
In June 2017, Bill Cosby went to court to face accusations he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. Constand took the witness stand and delivered powerful testimony that echoed what other victims said happened to them.
“I was jolted awake and I felt Mr. Cosby’s hand groping my breasts under my shirt,” she testified. “I also felt his hand inside my vagina moving in and out, and I felt him take my hand and place it on his penis and move it back and forth.”
Of the 13 victims accusing Cosby of sexual assault, the presiding judge only permitted one to testify. Prosecutors were hoping the testimony of 13 victims would establish a pattern of behavior, and persuade the jury that Cosby was guilty of the assault.
Cosby did not take the stand, and thereby avoided a grilling by prosecutors about his behavior. In his stead, lead attorney Brian J. McMonagle, insisted that Constand was lying, and that they had a consensual sexual relationship.
Steele, meanwhile, noted that when Andrea Constand’s mother called to confront Bill Cosby a year after the incident took place, the defendant’s apology and his offer to pay for her schooling, therapy, and a trip to Florida to discuss the matter, were evidence that he knew he did something wrong.
After six days of deliberations, the judge declared a mistrial. It is not known how the jury was divided.
D.A. Kevin Steele said he would put Cosby on trial again. “We will take a hard look at everything involved and then we will retry it,” Mr. Steele said. Adding that Ms. Constand “is entitled to a verdict in this case.”
For his part, Brian J. McMonagle, Bill Cosby’s lead lawyer said, “Mr. Cosby began this trial presumed innocent and he leaves it that way. If the case is retried, know that I will once again put them to the test.”
April 2018: Bill Cosby’s Retrial
April 2 to April 9: Preparation
The second trial was initially set for November, but Judge Steven T. O’Neill pushed the date back so Cosby’s new legal team could prepare their defense. The retrial began on Tuesday, April 2 at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.
After being unsuccessfully defended at the first trial, Cosby replaced his attorney, Brian McMonagle, with Tom Mesereau. Mesereau is best known for successfully defending Michael Jackson against child-molestation charges in 2005.
Where Cosby’s first legal team called just one witnesses to the stand, it was expected that Meserau would make use of additional witnesses for the second trial. Before the trial, the New York Post reported that Cosby’s lawyer was looking to put Foxwoods Casino Resorts manager Thomas Cantone on the stand. Cosby said that Cantone could confirm that Constand went to Cosby’s hotel room willingly, brought him gifts, lit a fire, and “cozied up in a bed with him.”
Constand previously testified that she sat on Cosby’s bed because there was nowhere else to sit. And even if someone was there willingly, they can always change their mind.
Another witness, Temple employee Marguerite Jackson, says Constand told her she could “set up” Cosby and get a big payday. Constand denies knowing Jackson.
April 9 to April 25, 2018: The Retrial
On April 9, Bill Cosby’s retrial began. From the start, the defense began to paint Constand as a con artist who was only in it for the money. But this trial was going to be different, as more of Cosby’s accusers were allowed to take the stand.
On April 11, one of the Cosby’s victims, Heidi Thomas, took the stand. A day later, former model Janice Dickinson was brought to the stand to testify against Cosby. Over the entire retrial, jurors heared from five different women who accused Cosby of raping them.
The defence called Marguerite Jackson to the stand on April 18. As expected, she testified that Constand made allusions to setting Cosby up while the two shared a hotel room.
The next day saw the defense, for the fifth time, motion for a mistrial. Judge Steven T. O’Neill denied the motion. Closing arguments are made on April 24. Cosby himself never took the stand in his own defense. On April 25, the jury began deliberating the case. Two hours into the deliberations, they requested the legal definition of “consent.”
April 26, 2018: The Verdict
On April 26, the jury returned with their verdict. Cosby was found guilty on all three charges of sexual assault on Constand. The court room had a number of Cosby’s accusers inside, and the joy at the jury’s decision was noticeable.
Cosby did not react to the verdict at first. He just sat quietly with no expression on his face until the prosecution asked that his bail be revoked due to his wealth and reported ownership of a plane. Cosby yelled at the prosector: “He doesn’t have a private plane, you a*****e.”
Judge O’Neil did not end up revoking bail for Cosby, noting his age and the fact that he appeared at all of his court dates over the past two and a half years. O’Neil did, however, recommend that Cosby stay in his home. Cosby could request to live in a home in a different state (he currently owns homes in multiple states), but he would have to be fitted with a GPS tracking unit.
Beyond the Verdict: Lawsuits against Cosby Pile Up
Even if the jury comes to a decision in the April retrial, it’s not the end to Cosby’s legal woes. Cosby’s lawyer stated that they will be seeking an appeal in the case. Currently, if appeals do not go through, Cosby is facing a possible 30 plus years in prison.
He faces a large number of other civil suits from women who have accused him of sexual assault and defamation.