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Bill Cosby sexual assault trial: Closing arguments begin

Attorneys for Bill Cosby and Judy Huth delivered closing statements Wednesday in the latest sexual assault trial against the disgraced actor and comedian.

Huth, a 64-year-old California resident who has accused Cosby of sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion when she was a teenager, recalled the alleged assault in graphic detail last week during the civil trial unfolding this month in Santa Monica.

Via video testimony taped in October 2015 and screened last week for the jury, Cosby denied Huth’s allegations and claimed that he didn’t remember meeting her in the mid-1970s when the incident allegedly occurred.

The jury filed into the courtroom Wednesday around 10 a.m., at which point Judge Craig D. Karlan apologized for a 30-minute delay caused by a power outage at the courthouse that morning.

Before closing arguments commenced, a video deposition from the late Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner was played for the jury. In the footage from 2016, Hefner described the configurations of game rooms and adjoining bedrooms in the Playboy Mansion. (Cosby allegedly assaulted Huth in one of the bedrooms adjacent to the game rooms Hefner spoke about.)

Asked if visitors to the Playboy Mansion are allowed to engage in sexual activity in the rooms, Hefner said, “It depended very much on the circumstances.” He added that having underage guests at the mansion was “unusual” but “there were exceptions” when parents were present.

Hefner said in his deposition that Cosby was not allowed to bring underage girls to the Playboy Mansion and that he never noticed the comedian doing so. However, he couldn’t say whether the staff at the mansion routinely checked visitors’ identification to determine their ages upon entry or while serving them alcoholic drinks. Asked if the mansion’s security team normally checked guests’ ID cards, Hefner replied, “I think so, but I didn’t really know.”

While at the mansion, Hefner said, Cosby was treated like everyone else and had “no special privileges.” He identified Cosby as one of his closest friends in the mid-1970s and couldn’t recall discussing bringing underage girls to the mansion with the TV star.

After Hefner’s video deposition concluded, the prosecution began delivering its closing argument around 10:15 a.m. While addressing the jury, Huth‘s attorney Nathan Goldberg meticulously recapped and opined on each witness’ testimony, often referencing evidence and testimony transcripts shown on a screen in the courtroom.

He argued that Huth is not only a victim of sexual assault but of pervasive victim-blaming.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned … [it’s] how much courage it takes … to bring a claim like this against someone like Mr. Cosby — a celebrity, powerful,” Goldberg said.

Revisiting Huth’s testimony in detail, Goldberg reminded the jury that a teenage Huth and her 17-year-old friend Donna Samuelson allegedly shared their ages with Cosby before he served them drinks and invited them to the Playboy Mansion. After the assault allegedly took place, Goldberg said, “Cosby acted like nothing happened” and Huth “was afraid to say anything” in his presence.

On the screen appeared a photo that the jury had seen several times before — of Cosby and Huth together at the Playboy Mansion. Goldberg also referenced remarks from Samuelson, who testified that a distraught Huth begged her to leave the Playboy Mansion after Cosby allegedly assaulted her.

“Why in the world would she want to leave if nothing happened?” Goldberg asked the jury. “Of course that’s the reason.”

Goldberg also dismissed the defense’s argument that the allegations leveled by Huth are part of an elaborate “plot hatched by” her and Samuelson. He characterized the defense’s strategy as “little sniper attacks which have no bearing on anything.”

To underscore his argument, he told the stories of other Cosby accusers in an attempt to establish a “common plan — get the victim to a certain place and then take advantage of them.”

“Frankly, it’s a little bit insulting that to suggest that Ms. Huth and Ms. Samuelson were trying to deceive people,” Goldberg said.

Cosby‘s attorney Jennifer Bonjean interrupted Goldberg’s speech more than 10 times to call for objections — the vast majority of which Karlan overruled.

“Ultimately, the jury has to decide what the facts are,” Karlan told Bonjean after overruling one of several objections she made.

Toward the end of his closing statement — which lasted nearly an hour and a half — Goldberg detailed the psychological toll the alleged assault took on Huth, as well as the traumatic yet empowering effect other accusers’ stories had on her.

“Cosby was sentenced to prison [in 2018], and that changed things for her,” Goldberg said. “She was relieved. … Now the world knew.”

Ultimately, Goldberg implored the jury to “use your best judgment, use your common sense” and “decide what’s right.”

“To do justice in this case, you have to make sure that you hold Mr. Cosby fully, completely accountable for the harm that he did,” Goldberg said.

The defense is scheduled to deliver its closing argument around 1:30 p.m. after a court recess.

Throughout the trial, much of the defense’s case has focused on the shifting timeline of Huth’s allegations. Initially, the plaintiff from Riverside County claimed the assault occurred in 1974 when she was 15. But she has since altered her account to say that it happened in 1975 when she was 16.

In court, Huth explained that she changed the date of her story upon reviewing images and media materials from the time period indicating that the assault took place a year after she originally thought.

Team Cosby also has scrutinized the 40-year gap between the alleged assault and the date Huth filed her lawsuit against the former “Cosby Show” star in December 2014.

While testifying in court earlier this month, Huth recalled allegedly meeting Cosby in the mid-1970s. She said that Cosby gave her and a friend, Samuelson, drinks before taking them to the Playboy Mansion in L.A. and instructing them to tell people they were 19 if asked.

Huth teared up on the stand while recounting the alleged assault, which began with Cosby trying to put his hands down her pants. To get him to stop, Huth testified, she lied and told him she was menstruating. He then allegedly forced her hand onto his erect penis and used it to masturbate until he climaxed, she said.

When Samuelson took the witness stand last Monday, the defense challenged previous statements she made about playing the video game “Donkey Kong” that night in a room adjacent to the bedroom where Cosby allegedly assaulted Huth.

During cross-examination, Bonjean pointed out that “Donkey Kong” wasn’t released until six years after the assault allegedly took place. (Because Huth also has referred to Samuelson playing “Donkey Kong,” Team Cosby has tried to leverage the error as proof that the duo concocted a false story together.)

Samuelson said she simply misremembered the name of the video game and mused that it “could have been Atari.”

In her lawsuit, Huth contended that the alleged assault caused her psychological distress in the form of anxiety attacks and flashbacks that began in 2014 and continued until 2018 — when Cosby was convicted of sexual assault in an unrelated case and sent to a Pennsylvania prison.

(Cosby was released from prison in June 2021 after that ruling was overturned due to a “non-prosecution” agreement the entertainer struck with a former district attorney in 2014.)

Throughout the trial, a pair of photos that Samuelson took of Cosby with Huth at the Playboy Mansion have been presented repeatedly to the jury. Though Bonjean has conceded that Cosby brought Samuelson and Huth to the mansion, the comic’s representatives have maintained that nothing sexual transpired.

Over the years, Cosby has consistently rejected allegations of rape, sexual assault and other crimes leveled by approximately 60 women. The 84-year-old performer is not expected to participate in this trial.

Jury deliberation is set to begin after closing statements conclude. Huth is seeking unspecified damages, and because this is a civil trial rather than criminal, Cosby will not go back to prison even if he’s found guilty.

Times staff writer Kenan Draughorne contributed to this report.

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