Bill Cosby (left) and accuser Renita Hill (right). (AP Photos)
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Attorneys for a western Pennsylvania woman who contends Bill Cosby repeatedly drugged and had sex with her in the 1980s have filed a response to Cosby’s attempt to have a federal judge dismiss her defamation lawsuit against him.
Cosby’s attorneys last week asked a federal court judge in Pittsburgh to dismiss the lawsuit filed in October by Renita Hill.
Hill sued claiming Cosby made her out to be a “liar” and “extortionist” when the comedian, his wife and his attorney issued blanket denials to claims that Cosby drugged and sexually molested several women shortly after Hill went public with her allegations in November 2014.
Cosby’s attorneys claimed the denials constitute opinions that are protected by the First Amendment. But Hill’s attorneys said Tuesday that those opinion were based on “undisclosed facts” — namely, the implication that Hill is lying.
“Such facts include the implication that Plaintiff (Hill) knew she had not been assaulted and that she is an opportunistic liar who is attempting to extort money from Cosby,” Hill’s attorneys wrote in their 18-page response filed Tuesday.
Cosby’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to the filing.
Hill, of Baldwin, sued claiming Cosby drugged and had sex with her several times after they met on a children’s educational TV show.
She went public with her allegations in a television interview in late 2014 because she was “emboldened” after other women began renewing similar allegations against Cosby, her attorneys have said.
Cosby has yet to respond specifically to Hill’s allegations that he drugged and had sex with her several times after they met on the TV show, “Picture Pages,” in 1983. Hill claims that went on for about four years, starting when she was 16, and that Cosby helped pay for her college and would fly her to cities where he was performing and provide her with hotel rooms where he’d have sex with her, until she cut off contact with him.
But she contends statements from Cosby and his camp — including a statement given to the Washington Post the day after her TV interview by Cosby attorney Martin Singer — pertain to her.
Among other things, that statement said, “There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward now for the first time ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.”
Cosby’s attorneys argued that Hill couldn’t be defamed by the blanket denials because none of them specifically referenced her, and that, even if they did, the statements weren’t made with “actual malice” and concern a public figure — Hill — embroiled in a public controversy.
But Hill’s attorneys contend it’s reasonable to infer that the various Cosby denials refer to her because “she was a member of a very small group of women to whom the statements could possibly be directed.”
Also, they contend Hill isn’t a “public figure” despite the publicity her allegations and others have generated because the public didn’t have a stake in the outcome of the controversy, the filing said.
Cosby’s attorneys have until Jan. 5 to respond to Hill’s filing.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab has not scheduled a hearing on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit and can choose to decide the matter on the written arguments alone.