Bill Cosby used his celebrity status to pursue women looking for mentors and eager for help with their careers. Photo / AP
He wanted to dine in his dressing room with young fashion models. But not just any girls. He had a specific type in mind.
should be from out of town and “financially not doing well”, Bill Cosby
told Sue Charney, a New York modelling agency owner. Not making it big
yet, but full of potential. Deposition records give insight into the sleazy world of Bill Cosby.
“It’s a very, very good meal,
probably better than anything they’ve had the time that they’re in New
York,” Cosby boasts during a lengthy decade-old deposition in a lawsuit
filed against him by a woman who had accused him of drugging and
sexually assaulting her.
Getting to eat with Bill Cosby at the New York studio where The Cosby Show was being filmed would be like “a present” for the models, he says, a treat that would help Charney keep them as clients.
of the women who attended those dinners in the late 1980s, an aspiring
teenage actress named Jennifer Thompson, would later accuse Cosby of
pressuring her to have sex with him at his New York home, even after
he’d assured her parents that he’d help her adjust to life in the city.
Cosby, under questioning during the deposition, admitted to having sexual contact, but said it was consensual.
dressing-room dinners where Cosby entertained Thompson are one setting
in a kind of parallel world of pursuit, seduction and clandestine sex
that the comedian constructed as he was also crafting a public image as
the ultimate family man and a rumpled, comic father figure. In more than
900 pages of deposition transcripts, a profile comes into focus of a
man who for decades used his celebrity status to pursue women looking
for mentors and eager for help in their careers.
Prior to the
deposition’s release, Cosby had rarely publicly addressed the claims of
his accusers. Now his own words have provided a detailed excursion into
the hidden life of a world-famous public figure.
the outlines of a loosely connected network of people he taps to
directly or indirectly support his extramarital “rendezvous” and keep
sexual-assault accusations secret. Among those were lawyers who could
quash unfavourable news stories or pressure media organisations and
modelling agency directors who introduced him to women. There’s also a
doctor who prescribes Quaaludes that Cosby admits to giving to one woman
who later accused him of sexual assault, as well as to other women.
deposition took place over four days in September 2005 and March 2006
at the Rittenhouse Hotel, an elegant spot on one of Philadelphia’s
toniest squares. He was answering questions in a lawsuit alleging sexual
assault filed by Andrea Constand, a former basketball operations
manager at Temple University, where Cosby was a longtime member of the
board of trustees and one of the university’s most public faces. The
case was eventually settled, and the deposition did not become public
until reports this month by the Associated Press and the New York Times.
The Washington Post purchased a copy of the full deposition transcript
from the court reporter.
Cosby has been publicly accused of
sexual assault by more than 40 women, with allegations that date as far
back as the 1960s. Many of those women say he drugged them. He has never
admitted to sexual assault nor been charged criminally.
deposition, Cosby talks about using promises of payments to appease
women with whom he had sex or dissuade them from talking. He sometimes
sets up elaborate monetary reward systems, including offering to pay one
of his future sexual-assault accusers — Therese Serignese — US$500
($760) for every A grade she got at nursing school. Many years after
making that promise, he says he sent her a cheque for US$5000. He also
funnelled another US$5000 to her through his William Morris talent
agent, Tom Illius, who is now deceased.
With Constand, he offered
to pay for graduate school and campus housing, but there was a catch:
“We will pick up the tab,” he said, “but she must maintain a 3.0 GPA
[grade point average].” She didn’t take him up on the offer, though.
testifies that, in a call with Constand’s mother, he offered to pay
Constand’s graduate-school tuition and campus housing. He makes the
offer, he says, even though Constand and her mother weren’t asking for
money. But he would need to hide the payments from his wife, Camille
Cosby conjures his own vernacular to describe his sexual
encounters, and when recalling a night with Constand, he calls himself
“one of the greatest storytellers in the world”. At one point, he seems
to map a woman’s body, as if he were a sexual cartographer, speaking of
the “question zone” (her stomach, just above the top of her pants) and a
place “somewhere between permission and rejection” (between her legs).
presents himself as an instructor with some women, recounting how he
would walk them through relaxation exercises in which they would imagine
Cosby’s personal code of conduct dictates
that he not kiss and tell, he says. He learned as a boy that girls
always say, “Please, don’t tell anybody.” But as an adult, he says, he’s
learned that women are “the first people to go and tell somebody after
something has happened”.
His strictures delve into matters as
delicate as whether to have intercourse with one of his accusers — he
doesn’t, he says, because intercourse makes women form emotional
attachments, and he portrays his relationships with most of the women as
mere sexual encounters rather than love affairs. In one instance, he
says, “I didn’t ask her to stay all night and she didn’t ask if she
could stay all night … I don’t think there was any spirit in what had
happened of wanting to stay all night.”
In describing his wild
1970s days, Cosby recounts how he got prescriptions for Quaaludes seven
times but not for his own use. He wants to give them to women with whom
he wants to have sex. He keeps them on hand to offer “the same as a
person would say have a drink”.
In his telling, Cosby is a master
seducer, a knower of women’s thoughts. “I’m a pretty decent reader of
people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you
want to call them,” he testified.
The questioning in the Constand
case put Cosby in the same room with his accuser. He watched as
Constand cried while testifying. Asked by Constand’s lawyer, Dolores
Troiani, what he was thinking at that moment, he says: “I think Andrea
is a liar and I know she’s a liar because I was there.” He suggests she
times her tears to coincide with her testimony about “the touching”.
from being reluctant, Cosby often speaks expansively about his sexual
encounters, including his contact with Constand when he was in his
mid-60s and she was in her late 20s and early 30s. While describing his
attempt to seduce Constand, he balks when her attorney interrupts.
rush it,” he says before continuing to describe a scene in which he
eventually pulls back Constand’s hair and bids her to press her body
Cosby’s wit made him one of the world’s best known
entertainers, but the transcript shows that his occasional attempts at
humour during the deposition fall flat from the very beginning. At other
times, Cosby sounds stilted and cautious.
He denies knowing a
“Jane Doe” accuser — one of 13 supporting Constand’s case — who said she
tried to leave a party at Cosby’s home after he allegedly tried to
fondle her. But an assistant of the comedian’s warns he will be “angry
and never help her career”.
He also disputes the claims of
another Jane Doe, who says Cosby insisted that she take Quaaludes before
she could come into the Atlantic City penthouse where he was staying.
The same woman says he paid her gym membership after suggesting she lose
Cosby says he got prescription Quaaludes in the 1970s
from Leroy Amar, a Los Angeles doctor who is now deceased, ostensibly to
treat a bad back. When asked, the comedian acknowledges that he got the
powerful drug to give to women he “wanted to have sex with”. But Cosby
says he gave Quaaludes to only one of the Jane Does: Therese Picking, a
young woman he met backstage at a club in Las Vegas in 1976 and says he
had sex with her that same night.
“She became in those days what we called high,” he says. Asked whether she was “unsteady”, Cosby says, “Yes”.
whose last name is now Serignese, has an ongoing defamation lawsuit
against Cosby. She has said that she was not able to consent to
intercourse because of the effects of the drug. Cosby says he doesn’t
know whether she was in a position to consent.
This week, after
the release of the deposition, Cosby’s attorneys said in a court filing
that media accounts make it seem as if Cosby “has admitted to rape”.
yet defendant admitted to nothing more than being one of the many
people who introduced Quaaludes into their consensual sex life in the
1970s,” wrote Patrick O’Connor and George Gowen, noting that the drug
was once called “disco biscuits”.
In the months leading up to the
Constand lawsuit, Cosby’s attorney, Marty Singer, negotiated a deal
with the National Enquirer not to print Ferrier’s allegations in return
for the comedian granting the tabloid an exclusive interview. Ferrier
eventually told her story to People magazine in 2006.
model agency boss, Jo Farrell, who, like Charney, also introduced Cosby
to young women, is now in her 80s and suffers from dementia, according
to her daughter, Kathleen, who told the Washington Post that her mother
knew nothing about the claims of sexual abuse until the People article.
drugging accusations centre on an evening she says she spent at Cosby’s
home in January 2004. In a court filing, her lawyers said that Cosby
gave her what he said was a “herbal medication”, and her “knees began to
shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began
to feel only barely conscious”.
In the deposition, Cosby
describes the night as a passionate encounter. He says he gave her 1
Benadryl tablets, after breaking one of the tablets in half, leaving
three half tablets.
“I have three friends for you to make you relax,” he testifies that he told her.
Cosby has a lengthy phone conversation with her mother. “I’m
apologising because I’m thinking this is a dirty old man with a young
girl,” he says during the deposition. “I apologised. I said to the
mother it was digital penetration.”
On the call, Cosby says Constand’s mother told him that she was living through a “mother’s nightmare”.
is sorting through emotions himself. He felt threatened, he testifies,
and he had someone at the William Morris agency call to try to arrange a
face-to-face meeting with Constand and her mother in Miami. The meeting
What Cosby wants from Constand is to feel
“trusted”, he testifies. He wants that from all the women who had come
forward to accuse him, he says.
“Do you feel that you are a good person?” Constand’s lawyer asks.
His answer: “Yes.”