Cosby’s Career Is Over: Will His Victims Receive Justice?
Bill Cosby’s career is freefalling, with networks and venues cutting him as women continue to come forward with allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted them.
The icon’s reputation will be forever marred by the accusations, but everyone is asking one question about the matter: Will there be criminal charges?
Statute of Limitations
The law is, in large part, driven by time. Most civil claims and criminal charges cannot move forward after a certain amount of time has passed.
Although people sometimes complain about this aspect of the law, in a recent International Business Times article, New York attorney Stuart Slotnick says,
That’s a fundamental concept in our legal system, that people can’t be questioned for things that happened decades ago.
One of the reasons for statutes of limitations is that if an accuser makes a claim, then the person who was accused will have a very difficult time going back 10, 15, 20 years to defend themselves because evidence and witnesses may be gone.”
To date, charges have never been brought against Cosby. Unless more recent allegations of criminal action occur, it is unlikely charges will ever be brought.
Lack of Evidence
Unless obtained right away, physical evidence is difficult to procure. Because of this, alleged rape victims often have a difficult time getting their cases heard and bringing charges against their attackers.
Victims of rape are often reluctant to come forward for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) retribution, social stigma and unresponsiveness of authority figures, which results in a dearth of evidence.
Even when an alleged victim comes forward and charges are brought, it is still one person’s word against another’s.
2005 Decision Not to Prosecute and 2006 Civil Settlement
In 2005, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Bruce Castor chose not to prosecute Cosby for the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand. Castor cited a lack of evidence and said he would not act on the accusations.
Civil cases require a preponderance of evidence, which is much lower than the criminal standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. In November 2006, Cosby settled a civil law suit with Constand. The settlement terms remain confidential.
Future Criminal Charges and Civil Liability Unlikely
When it comes to future criminal charges, Bill Cosby appears to be in the clear. Criminal laws vary from state, as do the requisite statutes of limitations.
The dozen-plus women who have come forward thus far, however, all alleged sexual assaults that occurred well outside of the statute of limitations. Therefore, it appears criminal charges are barred.
Even if new claims arise, unless evidence is obtained at the time of the alleged incident, there is a proof problem because rape is so difficult to prove without physical evidence and strong testimony.
Likewise, Cosby and his attorneys will have a myriad of resources and defenses at their disposal to torpedo such potential charges. Namely, they will be able to argue the victims just want money.
Civil claims will likely be time barred, as well, as the respective statutes of limitations ran long ago. Again, there are proof problems here, as well.
Damage to Bill Cosby’s Legacy
Unless all accusations are false, Bill Cosby’s reputation will be irrevocably damaged. Gone is the image of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, who imparted wisdom with love and humor.
The iconic “The Cosby Show,” which ran on television in perpetuity is now off the air and banished from the collective American lexicon.
A recent Washington Post article, “Bill Cosby’s legacy, recast: Accusers speak in detail about sexual assault allegations,” chronicled Cosby’s career back to his early days in the 1960s.
It is not a particularly flattering picture, and Cosby’s past will likely receive even more scrutiny. This story is not likely to go away anytime soon.
Cosby is already suffering financially, as reruns of “The Cosby Show” have been pulled from the air, his comedy shows canceled and his attempted comeback stymied. Even though criminal and civil liability do not appear likely, Cosby will be forever damaged.
The repercussions will be (and are) an unprecedented fall from grace and public scorn that will span the rest of his life.
More troubling, however, is the suffering inflicted on his alleged victims, who will have to live with their realities for the rest of their lives, with no recourse other than telling their truths.