Friday 30 September 2016

Bill Cosby seeks to keep court records confidential in defamation case

Published 13/01/2016 | 18:17

Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby

A US magistrate will consider whether materials gathered in a defamation case filed by seven women against Bill Cosby can be kept out of the public eye.

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The hearing in federal court will focus on a confidentiality agreement that Cosby's lawyers are proposing in the case by the women, who are among dozens who say he sexually assaulted them decades ago.

The proposal calls for depositions and other documents subpoenaed or produced during the pre-trial discovery phase to remain confidential for 14 days.

Either side would then be allowed to request the judge seal the records for longer, but the records would remain sealed until the judge decided on the extension, according to the proposal, which was among a number of documents filed before the hearing.

Cosby's lawyers say in their legal briefs they are proposing the order because lawyers for the seven women seek "irrelevant and extraordinarily invasive and intimate details" of Cosby's life and "have made clear they intend to publicise every aspect of discovery in the case".

Among the information being sought are the identities of all Cosby's sexual partners since 1968 who were not his wife, the dates of the sexual encounters and all Cosby's medical records over the past 35 years, including those specifically dealing with "erectile and/or other sexual dysfunction, sexual paraphilia and/or sexual fetish", according to Cosby's lawyers.

But Joseph Cammarata, a lawyer for the women, argues the proposed order would damage transparency in a case of great public interest.

In his legal briefings, he acknowledges some documents, such as Cosby's private financial information, will have to be kept confidential. But he maintains none of that warrants the "blanket confidentiality order" Cosby's lawyers propose.

He also suggests Cosby, who played Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, has waived his privacy rights because he recently countersued the seven women, accusing them of making false accusations of sexual misconduct for financial gain.

Cosby's lawyers dismiss the arguments in their legal briefings, stressing their client's need for protection from "annoyance, embarrassment, and undue prejudice" is reason enough for "limited confidentiality" in the case.

They also maintain the proposal does not violate the public's right to open judicial proceedings. It simply provides a way to present pre-trial discovery documents "in an orderly fashion", they say.

"The law is clear: trial - not discovery - is the 'fact-finding' process in which the public has a common law and constitutional interest," Cosby's lawyers argue.

Mr Cammarata, in his legal brief, says there are valid reasons why he is seeking Cosby's medical and sexual histories.

Medical records are relevant, he says, because Cosby says he obtained the powerful prescription sedatives known as quaaludes for various joint and body pains.

And evidence of any sexual dysfunction bears on the women's allegations that Cosby "serially sexually assaulted semi-conscious, drugged women," Mr Cammarata says in his brief.

The seven women are among around 50 across the country who have come forward with allegations that Cosby plied them with drugs and alcohol before sexually assaulting them.

The 78-year-old actor and comedian, who has a home in western Massachusetts, has so far been named in six legal cases.

On December 30, he was charged in Pennsylvania with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman inside his home near Philadelphia in 2004. It is the first criminal case brought against him.

Press Association

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