Thursday, July 9, 2015

Damning Revelations in Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Claims

Bill Cosby, Sexual Assault, California Law
This week revealed some startling admissions on the part of actor/comedian Bill Cosby related to allegations of sexual assault.  A judge ordered a deposition transcript released related to a prior case dating back to 2005 sexual harassment case involving a Temple University employee.  Specifically, Cosby admitted to having obtained 7 separate prescriptions for quaaludes (a sedative) and infers that he intended to give these to women and have sex with them as follows:

Question: “When you got the quaaludes was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?”

Reply by Mr. Cosby: "Yes"

For a complete copy of the deposition transcript as provided by the New York Times Click Here.

This may be the "smoking gun" of evidence that the almost 30 alleged victims bringing claims against Cosby have needed to further their case.  The unfortunate part of most sexual assault claims is that the "state of the evidence" usually comes down to the alleged victim's word against the word of the alleged perpetrator.  In civil claims for money damages related to sexual assault, it is the victim's burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. "more likely than not" that the facts are as claimed).

Under California Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, deposition transcripts can and are used as "evidence" in civil proceedings.  The question becomes in this case what evidentiary value a deposition in a prior, unrelated proceeding (albeit with very similar allegations) has on the present claims.

California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.620 states as follows: "At the trial or any other hearing in the action, any part or all of a deposition may be used against any party who was present or represented at the taking of the deposition ..." This rule anticipates use of a transcript taken in the same legal proceeding being used in a trial on that "action".  This would not apply to the present case in my opinion.

However, CA Rule of Evidence 1290 may in fact apply.  This rule defines "former testimony" as follows: "As used in this article, "former testimony" means testimony given under oath in ... Another action." Subsequent rules go on to state that "former testimony" cannot be excluded from evidence based upon a "hearsay" objection (i.e. that the statement was made out of court and is being offered to prove the truth of the matter stated) in most instances.
Additionally, there are several rules of evidence that allow for so-called "admissions" of aparty to come into evidence either outright as evidence or to "impeach" the credibility of awitness who is now making contrary statements. (E.g. if Cosby denies that he everpurchased sedatives for the purpose of giving them to women to have sex, this statementmight be used to undermine his credibility either in a deposition in the present cases orat trial of the cases at issue here. It will be interesting to see how this prior deposition testimony will affect the posture ofCosby's defense team who, up to this point, have been adamant that all the allegationsare false and that they do not intend to settle these claims.