Los Angeles prosecutors have refused to take up the case of a woman who alleges she was sexually molested by the TV comic Bill Cosby 40 years ago when she was 15 years old.
The LA county district attorney’s office released a charge evaluation sheet on Tuesday that explained the office had declined to prosecute Cosby because the alleged incident occurred so long ago that it falls beyond California’s statute of limitations. The sheet lists the alleged victim only as Judith H, though the description of events matches the allegations of Judy Huth, who spent 90 minutes with LAPD’s special victims unit last week in the presence of her lawyer, Gloria Allred.
The decision not to press ahead with a prosecution underlines the difficulties that will be faced by any of the 20-plus women who wish to pursue allegations against the TV star. In California, the statute of limitations for a sexual felony is three years, and the alleged incident in this case occurred in 1974.
The chief of the LA police department, Charlie Beck, had promised that he would look into any allegations involving Cosby in his territory, regardless of the statute of limitations. “We don’t turn people away because things are out of statute. You come to us, especially with a sexual allegation, we will work with you,” Beck told reporters .
Lawyers representing Cosby have consistently denied the allegations leveled against him. Members of his family, including his wife and daughter, have also spoken out in his defence this week.
The alleged encounter, as narrated by the prosecutors’ evaluation sheet, occurred when Cosby was 37 and “Judith H” 15. Cosby approached her and promised her and a friend a “surprise”, the document states. They were given three beers then taken to a location that “Judith H” recalled as the Playboy Mansion, where Cosby allegedly guided her alone into a bedroom. “The victim felt scared, but sat next to the suspect,” the sheet says. “He attempted to kiss her on the mouth and slid his hand down her pants.” She resisted, but he proceeded to perform a sex act, the document says.
Prosecutors did not make any comment in the evaluation sheet about whether or not they believed the allegations to be credible. Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Singer, has denied Huth’s claims, saying she is an unreliable witness as she attempted to sell the story to the tabloids 10 years ago.
The prosecutors’ evaluation sheet notes that the most likely charge against Cosby, based on the allegations, would be “lewd or lascivious act on a 14- or 15-year-old child”. However, that violation did not exist in 1974. The most applicable violation in the law of the day would have been “annoying or molesting a child under 18”, which is a misdemeanor. The statute of limitations for such a misdemeanor in 1974 was just one year, as it is today.
Allred, Huth’s lawyer, emphasised that police had invited women like her client to come forward regardless of the statute of limitations. “We are glad that the detectives investigated Ms Huth’s claims. We anticipated before she reported to the police that the district attorney might not be able to prosecute because the statute of limitations in California would bar such a prosecution. It is our understanding that the decision not to prosecute was based on the statute of limitations and not on the merits of Ms Huth’s claims.
“I would encourage others to report, because depending on the facts and the law it may be possible to prosecute other cases.”
This is only the second known occasion in which police and prosecutors have looked into sexual allegations relating to Cosby. The first was in Pennsylvania in 2005, when a local prosecutor looked into claims that he had drugged and molested a woman at his home.
The prosecutor decided not to go ahead with the case for lack of evidence. But the woman, Andrea Constand, filed a civil lawsuit, which was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2006.
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