Under fire, Academy of Motion Pictures expels Cosby, Polanski

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled television’s Bill Cosby and Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski on Thursday as the Academy Awards presenter responded to sexual misconduct allegations roiling Hollywood.

Cosby and Polanski are the first known members expelled for violating a conduct code the Academy adopted in December following intense public pressure from hundreds of accusations of sexual harassment or assault in the entertainment industry.

The Academy said in a statement its Board of Governors met on Tuesday and voted to remove Cosby and Polanski, who had been members since 1996 and 1969, respectively.

“The Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity,” the body whose 8,000 members vote on the Oscars said in the statement.

The expulsion comes as the entertainment industry grapples with misconduct allegations that have led to dozens of politicians, businessmen and entertainers stepping down or being dropped from creative projects, sparking the #MeToo social movement and the Time’s Up campaign against workplace harassment and equal pay.

Cosby, 80, who was known as “America’s Dad” for his role on popular 1980s TV comedy “The Cosby Show,” was convicted last week of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. He faces up to 30 years in prison, and his attorney has vowed to appeal the conviction.

Polanski, 84, who won the best director Oscar in 2003 for “The Pianist,” in 1977 admitted to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles.

The French-Polish director lives in France and fled the United States following pleading guilty for fear his deal with prosecutors would be overruled and he would get a lengthy prison term. Polanski’s case is ongoing.

Bill Cosby reacts while being notified a verdict is in at the Montgomery County Courthouse in his sexual assault retrial, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 26, 2018. Mark Makela/Pool via Reuters

His attorney Harland Braun said Polanski was not given the chance to present his case before the Academy.

“It’s just shocking that the Academy would expel someone without a fair hearing,” Bruan said in a telephone interview.

In response, the Academy pointed to its conduct code, which says the board “retains its independent duty and authority … to address and take action on any matter.”

The Academy declined to say if Cosby and Polanski’s convictions played a role in their expulsion.

A Cosby representative did not respond to a requests seeking comment.

Four Academy members are now known to have been expelled. Once powerful producer Harvey Weinstein was expelled in October after numerous women accused him of decades-long sexual misconduct.

Film director Roman Polanski arrives at the Madeleine Church to attend a ceremony during a ‘popular tribute’ to late French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday in Paris, France, December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Weinstein, 66, has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

Actor Carmine Caridi was expelled in 2004 for distributing copies of films that are sent to members.

Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chris Reese

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From luxury to life behind bars: What Bill Cosby faces in prison

(Reuters) – Bill Cosby, used to the high life as one of America’s biggest stars, will likely see his entourage of aides replaced by an inmate paid pennies to help the legally blind comedian navigate life behind bars after he is sentenced for sexual assault.

FILE PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby exits the Montgomery County Courthouse after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Cosby, 80, faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced in the next three months for drugging and raping Andrea Constand, 45, in 2004 at his sprawling compound outside Philadelphia. He is appealing the verdict, which could potentially delay his imprisonment for months or even years.

Should he eventually leave the world of private jets and luxury hotel suites, the disgraced star of the 1980s television hit “The Cosby Show” will become probably the best-known celebrity to hear the gates of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections shut behind him, according to a department spokeswoman, Susan McNaughton.

She said previous and current high-profile inmates have included legislators, ex-police officers and Jerry Sandusky, a former Pennsylvania State University football coach convicted in 2012 of being a serial child molester.

Another is Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political activist convicted in the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.

Incarceration will be a stark change for the comedian, whose net worth was estimated in 2016 by Fortune magazine at $ 400 million, with $ 100 million invested in real estate, including homes in New York, Massachusetts and Nevada. He also owned a private jet, artwork and dozens of classic cars.

Once Cosby arrives behind bars, he will face an “incarceration reception process” to determine his healthcare and psychological treatment needs, his security level, and to which of 22 male prisons he will be sent.

He will be one of just 83 inmates aged 80 or older, and one of very few who are legally blind, McNaughton said.

Such prisoners are typically assigned a sighted inmate, who is paid just 19 to 42 cents an hour, to assist them and lead them through the facility.

“Certainly Mr. Cosby would be fine,” she said. “Of course they (the inmate assistants) are screened, and there is a lot of monitoring and supervision.”

Like most inmates, Cosby will likely be allowed to receive and send emails, which are also screened for security purposes. Most inmates use prison-approved tablet computers.

Cosby’s prison assistant might also help sort any fan mail that passes a security screening.

“No drugs or contraband or influence of escape,” McNaughton said. “If it clears through the mailroom, it’s delivered to the inmate.”

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler

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Bill Cosby jury hunkers down for second day in sexual assault trial

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial begins a second day of deliberations on Thursday, charged with deciding whether the comedian once known as “America’s Dad” drugged and molested a younger woman at his Pennsylvania home more than a decade ago.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves court after a day of deliberations in his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

During a three-week trial, prosecutors have portrayed Cosby as a serial predator who hid behind his kindly television persona, while defense lawyers say he has been the victim of women fabricating stories in pursuit of wealth and fame. Cosby, 80, a black comedian who won over America as the wise and witty patriarch on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, is on trial on three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, 45, in January 2004. He has denied the charges, saying any sexual contact was consensual.

A first trial on the same charges ended last year with a deadlocked jury.

The jury, sequestered since the trial began on April 9, was due to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) after a six-hour session on Wednesday, when jurors asked to rehear parts of the case.

Last June, a different panel of jurors spent nearly six days deliberating the case before Steven O’Neill, the same Montgomery County, Pennsylvania judge, before he declared a mistrial, leading to the second trial.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves court after a day of deliberations in his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The first trial ended in mistrial last June, just before a flood of sexual assault and harassment accusations against rich and powerful men in media, entertainment and politics gave rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Five women who have leveled similar accusations against Cosby were allowed to testify during the current trial as the prosecution sought to establish a pattern of behavior. At the first trial, only one other accuser was permitted to tell her story.

After receiving instructions from O’Neill on Wednesday morning, the jury raised questions three times.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Two hours into deliberations, the panel asked for the legal definition of “consent” in a sexual assault case. O’Neill said the question could not be answered under Pennsylvania law.

Later, the jury asked to see two documents prepared by Margo Jackson, a star witness called by the defense, outlining her accusations that Constand once told her “it would be easy” to fabricate a sexual assault accusation against a celebrity.

The judge denied the request but granted the jury’s request to see the content of several instructions about evidence.

Jackson, a former roommate of Constand, was barred from testifying in the first trial.

In a third request, the jury asked for the rereading of Cosby’s interview with police who investigated the 2004 incident that led to his trial as well as a rereading of Jackson’s testimony. The judge granted those requests.

Cosby has remained free on bail. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the three counts, although sentencing guidelines call for the terms to be served concurrently.

Reporting by David DeKok; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe

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Cosby defense lawyers hitting back hard against accusers

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers will continue grilling his accusers when his sexual assault trial resumes on Thursday following withering treatment of three so far that featured tears, confessions of drug use and charges of self-promotion.

Actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, returns to the courtroom after lunch recess during the third day of the retrial of his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 11, 2018. Dominick Reuter/Pool via Reuters

Cosby, 80, the once beloved comic and television star whose appeal across generations and races lasted for decades, is standing for his second criminal trial on allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting a former friend and colleague, Andrea Constand, in 2004.

Some 50 other women have made similar accusations but their cases were too old to prosecute. Five of them are being permitted to tell the jury their stories now, in a retrial expected to last a month.

In the first trial, which ended in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury, only one other accuser besides Constand was allowed to testify.

When Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill permitted five of them to bolster the prosecution case, it was a major setback for Cosby’s defense team, which is fighting back with aggressive cross-examination.

In three days of testimony so far, three of the women have told stories of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in the 1980s, the decade when he became “America’s Dad” by playing the lovable Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” Constand will likely tell a similar story of her 2004 encounter with Cosby.

Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, who represented Michael Jackson in his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges, will resume his cross-examination of former bartender Janice Baker-Kinney.

On Wednesday Mesereau honed in on Baker-Kinney’s past drug use. Baker-Kinney readily admitted using drugs at times and that she was an alcoholic up until about age 38.

“I haven’t had a drink or drug in more than 20 years,” she said.

Baker-Kinney held firm against most of Mesereau’s questioning, though she choked up when speaking of her son’s depression after his father’s death.

Co-counsel Kathleen Bliss took on two other accusers, bringing one of them, aspiring actress Chelan Lasha, to tears for much of the session while grilling her about inconsistencies between her testimony and a statement she gave police.

Later, during a break in the action with the judge out of the courtroom, Lasha spontaneously burst into sobs and began gasping before recovering her composure.

Bliss also tried to skewer Heidi Thomas, an aspiring actress, about the potentially career-boosting publicity she received after coming forward with accusations against Cosby.

“OK,” Thomas admitted, “I had a lot of attention.”

Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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Cosby attorneys to lay out comedian's sex-assault defense case

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers on Tuesday were set to make their opening statements in his retrial on sex assault charges, a case that is expected to include testimony from a woman who claims his accuser had mused about profiting from allegations against a famous man.

The 80-year-old entertainer, once best known as the wise and witty father in the TV hit “The Cosby Show,” is facing the same charges of sexually assaulting a friend in 2004 that he faced in a trial last year that ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

His defense will include new elements this time, after Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he would allow testimony from a friend of accuser Andrea Constand, a 44-year-old former administrator at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. The friend claims Constand once spoke of extracting money from celebrities by making such accusations.

About 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, sometimes after drugging them, in a string of alleged attacks dating back decades. All the accusations, apart from Constand’s, were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying that any sexual contact he has had was consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new jury on Monday heard in prosecutors’ opening statements that Cosby had paid $ 3.38 million to a woman who accused him of sexual assault as part of a 2006 settlement of a civil lawsuit. That fact had not been revealed at Cosby’s first trial almost a year ago.

Both sides had wanted to divulge the settlement at trial, with prosecutors possibly seeking to portray it as an admission of guilt, while defense lawyers could argue that it bolstered their cases that Constand was seeking a big payout.

Cosby has changed lawyers for this trial, with his defense headed by Tom Mesereau, a Los Angeles attorney best known for successfully defending singer Michael Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial.

Prosecutors will have a chance to call witnesses that were blocked from the first trial, including five more women who accuse Cosby of sex assault. Their testimony could bolster an argument that Cosby, who built a long career on a family-friendly style of comedy, was a serial predator who preyed on vulnerable women.

In Cosby’s last trial, prosecutors were allowed to call just one such witness.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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Cosby attorneys to lay out comedian's sex-assault defense case

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers on Tuesday were set to make their opening statements in his retrial on sex assault charges, a case that is expected to include testimony from a woman who claims his accuser had mused about profiting from allegations against a famous man.

The 80-year-old entertainer, once best known as the wise and witty father in the TV hit “The Cosby Show,” is facing the same charges of sexually assaulting a friend in 2004 that he faced in a trial last year that ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

His defense will include new elements this time, after Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he would allow testimony from a friend of accuser Andrea Constand, a 44-year-old former administrator at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. The friend claims Constand once spoke of extracting money from celebrities by making such accusations.

About 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, sometimes after drugging them, in a string of alleged attacks dating back decades. All the accusations, apart from Constand’s, were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying that any sexual contact he has had was consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new jury on Monday heard in prosecutors’ opening statements that Cosby had paid $ 3.38 million to a woman who accused him of sexual assault as part of a 2006 settlement of a civil lawsuit. That fact had not been revealed at Cosby’s first trial almost a year ago.

Both sides had wanted to divulge the settlement at trial, with prosecutors possibly seeking to portray it as an admission of guilt, while defense lawyers could argue that it bolstered their cases that Constand was seeking a big payout.

Cosby has changed lawyers for this trial, with his defense headed by Tom Mesereau, a Los Angeles attorney best known for successfully defending singer Michael Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial.

Prosecutors will have a chance to call witnesses that were blocked from the first trial, including five more women who accuse Cosby of sex assault. Their testimony could bolster an argument that Cosby, who built a long career on a family-friendly style of comedy, was a serial predator who preyed on vulnerable women.

In Cosby’s last trial, prosecutors were allowed to call just one such witness.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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U.S. appeals court rejects Cosby accuser’s bid to revive defamation suit

BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a bid to revive a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby by an actress who said the entertainer raped her in 1974 and then called her a liar after she made her accusations public in a newspaper interview.

The lawsuit, filed by Kathrine McKee, revolved around a letter that an attorney for Cosby sent New York’s Daily News in 2014 as a wave of women was coming forward to accuse the comedian of a string of sexual assaults dating back to the 1960s.

The statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had long expired, leading some accusers to pursue civil lawsuits, such as McKee‘s. The lawsuits and accusations by dozens of women shattered the family-friendly reputation Cosby built in a career highlighted by his role in the 1980s television hit “The Cosby Show.”

Cosby, 80, has denied wrongdoing, saying any encounters with his accusers were consensual. He is awaiting an April retrial in Pennsylvania on charges he sexually assaulted a former basketball coach at his alma mater, Temple University.

McKee argued in her suit that the attorney’s letter to the newspaper called her a liar by saying the article was ”defamatory, characterizing her claims as “wild” and suggesting she had a criminal record.

But the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston stood by a lower-court ruling that the entertainer could not be sued over the letter.

The decision found that McKee had made herself a public figure by wading into the controversy with Cosby, rejecting her claim that her dispute with the entertainer was a private one. As a public figure, McKee would have to prove that Cosby acted with malice in his response.

“The web of sexual assault allegations implicating Cosby, an internationally renowned comedian commonly referred to as ‘America’s Dad,’ constitutes a public controversy,” U.S. Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch wrote for the three-judge panel.

William Salo, McKee’s attorney, said he disagreed with the decision and may appeal.

“They’re saying just because a famous person rapes you, you become a public figure if you complain about it,” he said.

Alan Greenberg, a lawyer for Cosby, welcomed the ”well-reasoned decision confirming that there was no defamation.”

McKee sued Cosby in 2015, a year after the Nevada resident told the newspaper he raped her in a Detroit hotel room in 1974.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney

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