Bill Cosby’s attorneys have asked a federal judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit by a Pittsburgh-area woman.
Renita Hill, of Baldwin, sued in October claiming Cosby drugged and had sex with her several times after they met on a children’s educational TV show in 1983.
She went public with her allegations in a KDKA-TV news interview on Nov. 20, 2014 and contends blanket denials that Cosby sexually abused women issued since by the comedian, his wife and his attorney make Hill out to be a “liar” and an “extortionist.”
But Cosby’s attorneys, in a new U.S. District Court filing on Friday, say those denials don’t refer to Hill by name or otherwise specifically. And even if they did, they are protected speech, they contend.
That’s because statements that Cosby’s accusers have engaged in “innuendo” or are otherwise motivated by greed are mere opinions, according to Hill’s legal request to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Opinion, as a matter of law, is constitutionally protected and cannot support a plaintiff’s defamation claim,” the request says.
“None of what’s in Cosby’s motion is of any surprise at all. These are the legal arguments we expected of him,” Hill’s attorney, George Kontos, said in an email Monday “Renita’s claims are viable both from a factual and legal standpoint, and we look forward to setting forth our position in the brief we will be filing with the court.”
Kontos has until Dec. 29 to file a response, while Cosby’s attorneys will have until Jan. 5 to respond to that. The judge has not scheduled a hearing on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit and can choose to decide the matter on the written arguments alone.
Cosby’s response comes in the wake of counterclaims his attorneys filed last week in federal court in Boston against seven women who are suing him there for defamation. Like Hill, those women contend Cosby defamed them by allowing his representatives to brand them as liars.
In the countersuit, Cosby claims the women made “malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations” of sexual misconduct against him that are “nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to extract financial gain from him.”
Cosby has yet to respond publicly 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 KDKA 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.”
Kontos said at the October news conference announcing her lawsuit that Hill finally came forward last year because she was “emboldened” after other women began renewing similar allegations against Cosby.
But even assuming that Cosby was aware of her locally televised Nov. 20 allegations, Hill should have expected “a vehement response,” the motion says. “The First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech is not a one-way street.”