Cosby filed his latest defamation suit against Beverly Johnson, one of dozens of women who have accused the comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting them.
In all, he’s sued eight women so far. In each case, he’s charged that their allegations are “false, malicious, opportunistic and defamatory.”
Yes, Cosby has a perfect right to sue if he feels aggrieved. But the realities of the legal system are such that he has a huge advantage. Lawsuits are typically wars of attrition.
It’s one thing to be a plaintiff. Typically, lawyers take cases on a contingency basis, which means the costs of the lawsuit come out of the potential damage award. But defendants in civil suits must pay legal expenses upfront.
By counter-suing, Cosby has upped the stakes for each plaintiff. Now the meter is running for them.
Since he has infinitely deeper pockets, he is using his wealth as a weapon to beat his accusers into financial submission. That would give him the upper hand in any settlement.
But suppose, no settlement is forthcoming. His accusers manage to find the money to bring their cases to trial. What happens then?
First, from a public relations standpoint, the suits make a clear statement that Cosby believes he’s been falsely accused. Otherwise, why sue?
Second, Cosby’s defamation suits lay the groundwork for his defense in any trial.
Since many of the allegations involve events that happened years, if not decades ago, a trial will likely come down to Cosby’s word against his accuser’s.
What Cosby needs to do more than anything is to shore up his credibility. Filing his own defamation suits does that. They also make him more likely to be seen as a victim, not a predator.
The final element to this legal strategy is Cosby himself.
Before the avalanche of allegations became pubic, Cosby was revered. Not only because he’s a popular comedian and television personality, but also for his humanitarian work and advocacy of education.
Beyond that, he’s a lawyer’s dream witness.
He’s charismatic. He’s made a living off his winning smile and warm personality. He’s everybody’s lovable Grandpa. Most of all, he knows how to work an audience. And, a jury is an audience.
He’s a seasoned performer who is articulate and disarming. What’s more, he knows how to project sincerity and connect with people.
Contrast that with his alleged victims; they’re likely to be greeted with far more skepticism. Testifying in court is daunting. They’re nowhere near Cosby’s stature or skill. They’re likely to be nervous, halting in their testimony and, therefore, less credible.
Comedian Jay Leno hit the nail on the head during a speech before the National Association of Television Program Executives last January.
“I don’t know why it ‘s so hard to believe women. You go to Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25,” he joked about the Cosby case.
Therein lies the finally irony. The crimes he’s been accused of are so extensive, it’s hard to get your head around him.
It’s the polar opposite of the “Big Lie,” a lie so big people accept it at face value. In this case, the alleged crimes are so heinous, the truth is hard to accept.
It means our lovable Dad and Grandpa is the worst serial rapist in the nation’s history. And no one wants to believe that.
In the end, the real crime is not so much that he did it, but that he could get away with it for so long, simply because he is a celebrity. That’s an indictment of us all.
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