PHILADELPHIA — A prominent accuser of Bill Cosby filed a civil suit in federal court on Thursday, alleging that the actor-comedian raped and imprisoned her at an Atlantic City hotel in 1990.
Lili Bernard, 57, of Los Angeles, is one of 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Bernard’s suit was filed before New Jersey’s two-year window to file older sexual assault claims expired, according to WCAU.
Many of the women, including Bernard, could not file criminal charges against Cosby, 84, because the statute of limitations had run out, the Inquirer reported.
Under a previous law, Bernard would have been prevented from taking legal action because lawsuits had to be filed within two years of the alleged assault, The New York Times reported. The reforms, enacted in 2019, extended the time limit to seven years and created a special two-year window, which would have ended next month, to bring cases regardless of when the alleged assault occurred, the newspaper reported.
Bernard, an artist, told The Associated Press that her decision to file the lawsuit was prompted in part by Cosby’s recent release from prison.
“When Bill Cosby was released, it retraumatized me, it terrified me. I was really horrified for any woman or girl that would come into contact with him,” Bernard said. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court let a predator back on the streets.”
A judge sentenced Cosby to three to 10 years in state prison in 2018 following his conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. A jury determined that Cosby drugged and molested Andrea Constand, who then worked as the director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
According to court documents, attorneys for Bernard alleged Cosby coerced her to travel to Atlantic City from New York City with the promise of helping her with her acting career, KYW reported. Bernard said at the hotel, Cosby drugged and raped her after promising to mentor her on his top-ranked television show, the AP reported. She was 26 at the time of the alleged assault.
The following morning, Cosby dressed Bernard, according to the lawsuit, and gave her money before escorting her to a car that returned her to New York, The Inquirer reported.
Cosby threatened to “erase” Bernard if she reported the incident to authorities, the suit claims.
“I have waited a long time to be able to pursue my case in court and I look forward to being heard and to hold Cosby accountable for what he did to me,” Bernard said in a news release Thursday. “Although it occurred long ago, I still live with the fear, pain and shame every day of my life.”
In a statement, Andrew Wyatt, a spokesperson for Cosby, denied Bernard’s claims.
“These look back provisions are unconstitutional and they are a sheer violation of an individual’s constitutional rights and denies that individual of their Due Process,” Wyatt said. “This is just another attempt to abuse the legal process, by opening up the floodgates for people, who never presented an ounce of evidence, proof, truth and/or facts, in order to substantiate their alleged allegations.”
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