Bill Cosby’s lawyer says his client “fears” federal prosecutors may try to pursue a racketeering and sex trafficking case against him, which would be similar to the one successfully used against R&B singer R. Kelly.
Jennifer Bonjean, the defense attorney for Cosby, attended a hearing by phone to argue for Cosby’s request to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and sidestep a follow-up deposition in his current legal battle with accuser Judy Huth.
Bonjean cited Kelly’s conviction, and W. Kamau Bell’s new Showtime docuseries We Need to Talk About Cosby as proof that her client is not clear of criminal jeopardy.
She argued that the docuseries was “whipping the pubic into a frenzy,” and with the current #MeToo movement, Cosby’s fear of future prosecution “is not fanciful, it’s not imaginary.”
Bonjean also argued that Huth, who is the accuser now suing her client over accusations that he sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974 when she was just 15 years old and he was 37, has already deposed Cosby and now is looking to ask sweeping follow-up questions such as, “Have you ever sexually assaulted anyone, anywhere, at any time in the last 84 years of your life.”
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan presided over the hour-long hearing but did not rule on the request. However, he’s likely leaning toward allowing Cosby to plead the Fifth and promised to rule soon.
“I don’t see the assertion as frivolous here especially given what happened in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Karlan said adding that beyond possible racketeering charges, Cosby could also face state prosecutors who might reverse course and present charges in a criminal investigation surrounding accusers whose allegations are not barred by statutes of limitations, Rolling Stone reported.
“Is there a reasonable fear of prosecution based on providing the information sought? The answer is: He does have a reasonable fear that he could be incriminating himself if, in fact, he provides the information and the statute of limitations have not run,” Karlan said. “I don’t see it as that close a call.”
Huth sued Cosby for the first time in 2014, but that complaint was put on hold due to the comedian’s two prior criminal trials in Pennsylvania by accuser Andrea Constand, as well as the ongoing Covid pandemic.
The case got back on track last year after Pennsylvania’s highest overturned Cosby’s conviction, and he was released from prison.
Bonjean also referenced R. Kelly’s recent conviction, arguing on Friday that federal prosecutors “have been very aggressive about bringing claims against celebrities under a series of RICO violations, pleading around the statutes of limitations (and) charging people with predicate acts that date back decades.”
“I also represent R. Kelly, who most certainly was prosecuted under a RICO theory in which he was a celebrity, and the theory went that there was an inner circle of people who work for celebrities and helped him get sex,” Bonjean said. “We know that federal prosecutors are creatively using federal statutes to prosecute individuals with allegations that go back a very, very long time.”
Huth’s lawyer John West argued that Cosby shouldn’t “automatically” get a “lifetime pass” under the Fifth Amendment.
Judge Karlan informed the parties that the Huth case would be moving ahead and set a new trial date of May 9.
Cosby, 84, “vehemently” denies Huth’s allegations against him.