Judge tosses Pennsylvania woman's defamation suit against Bill Cosby
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Pittsburgh-area woman who claims Bill Cosby defamed her when he and his representatives responded to allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted her and other women.
The October lawsuit filed by Renita Hill, 48, was dismissed with prejudice, meaning she cannot try to amend and re-file it.
Hill went public with her allegations in November 2014 in an interview on Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV in which she said she was "emboldened" by other women who had made similar accusations against Cosby.
Her lawsuit said she was made out to be a "liar" and "extortionist" when the comedian, his wife and his attorney issued blanket denials.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab agreed with Cosby's attorneys that the statements were opinions protected by the First Amendment.
"Even considering these three statements together as a combined, single statement, this newly 'conjoined' statement does not lead to an inference that plaintiff is a 'liar and an extortionist,'" the judge wrote.
Cosby's attorneys referred questions to a spokeswoman who didn't immediately comment on the ruling.
Hill's attorney, George Kontos, promised to appeal saying he strongly disagreed with the judge's reasoning.
"The basis of his opinion is these are constitutionally protected, 'pure' opinions," Kontos said. "But, looked at as a whole, they contain all sorts of innuendo and undisclosed facts."
Cosby has yet to respond specifically to Hill's allegations that he drugged and molested 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, until she cut off contact with him about four years later.
Seven women are suing Cosby in federal court in Massachusetts for defamation. Like Hill, those women contend Cosby defamed them by allowing his representatives to brand them as liars.
In December, Cosby countersued, saying the women made "malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations" against him for monetary gain.
Since then, Cosby has been criminally charged in suburban Philadelphia with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 after giving her drugs that made her drowsy and unable to resist. A judge has set a Feb. 2 hearing on a motion by Cosby's attorneys to have those charges dismissed.