Originally, I had not planned to comment on this issue. I included a video featuring Bill Cosby on the history page, that I decided not to remove. Additionally, after attending many social events where the subject has come up repeatedly and the fact that the national press and media inaccurately reported that the released deposition testimony was in effect Bill Cosby's "confession" of "drugging" and raping women, I decided to comment.
The fact that so many women are now coming forward after the statutes of limitations has expired is troubling to me. The purpose of statute of limitation laws is to facilitate resolution in a reasonable length of time. As time goes on, the evidence of an offense (criminal or civil) fades. People's memories become weaker and less reliable; physical evidence is destroyed or otherwise lost in the normal process; witnesses move or die. At a certain point, bringing charges (or filing civil suit) is unfair to the defendant and denies them Due Process because they weren't on notice to preserve evidence of their innocence.
It's amazing to me that out of so many alleged victims, not one came forward. Supposedly they were all scared because of the supposed power of Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby was only an entertainer; regardless how powerful he was, surely some of his many alleged victims should have come forward. However, men's power often makes them targets rather than shields them from allegations. During the same period of time that Cosby is alleged to have sexually assaulted or raped some of these women, another powerful man was being accused of sex crimes. In 1994, Paula Jones sued President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. As president, Bill Clinton was then widely considered the most powerful man in the world. However, other women including Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey alleged sex crimes committed by Clinton while Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Gennifer Flowers, and Monica Lewinsky admitted to affairs with the President.
If three women were brave enough to accuse the most powerful man in the world of sexual crimes, certainly some of Bill Cosby's accusers should have come forward. Even if some of them were genuinely afraid of Bill Cosby's power, the example of women accusing Bill Clinton should have encouraged at least some of them to come forward before the statute of limitations. If allegations against Cosby are true, it would suggest he is a serial rapist. So far more than 40 women have come forward, which suggest that there are probably hundreds of other victims. These allegations are spread over 40 years. The number coming forward so far suggest one sexual assault or rape per year. However, if we assume two per year, over 80 victims; three per year, over 120; and if we assume four, that's over 160 victims; but do we believe that a serial rapist traveling all over the world enjoying fame and wealth would limit himself to four conquests per year? It seems unlikely that out a pool of so many victims, that every one of them remained silent until the statute of limitations had passed. Did Bill Cosby suddenly stop? Were some of these women ex-lovers with a grudge? Were some motivated by the attention they would receive or a possible pay day by telling their story? Maybe some actually were victims and others simply jumped on the band wagon? Obviously, the answer to those questions and the rape question is, I don't know and may never know. Cosby may very well be guilty, but there is reasonable doubt in my mind.
The fact that all those women allowed the statute of limitations to expire is unfortunate and Bill Cosby will never have his day in court. Courts are designed and intended to be impartial and fair and what matters most are the facts and the laws. One woman, Barbara Bowman in a 2006 People Article claimed that she was raped twice (first in Reno, then Manhattan) by Cosby and she was able to prevent his third rape attempt in Atlantic City. Another woman, Joan Tarshis also claims to have been raped twice.
Unfortunately, money can buy justice and the traditional court system is increasingly viewed as unfair. When courts are unfair — when judges can be bribed, when the powerful are treated better, when more expensive lawyers produce more favorable outcomes — an ancient and sacred trust is lost.
The court of public opinion is an alternative system of justice. The court of public opinion is often about revenge or mob justice and results in ruined reputations. It’s very different from the traditional court system: This court is based on public shaming, the spin of the reporter and the perception of the mob. Having a good story is more important than having the law on your side. Being attractive or charismatic is more important than being fair. Facts matter, but there are no rules of evidence or standards of accuracy.
The court of public opinion does not seem to favor black people or issues. When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was being stalked while walking back to his father's house from the store, many jurors in the court of public opinion seemed to believe his death was justified. During the Ferguson unrest after Michael Brown was killed, many people claimed his hands were up and he posed no threat to Darren Wilson, the officer who shot him. Even after questionable and unusual grand jury tactics by the prosecutor, the court of public opinion seemed to rule the killing was justified. After Eric Gardner was killed by police, the court of public opinion decided his arrest was justified, even though the video clearly showed he posed no threat. When cops were acquitted in the Rodney King beating, America's first video capture of excessive police force, the court of public opinion seemed to side with the cops. However, although O.J. Simpson was acquited in a court of law, the court of public opinion ruled he was guilty.
Both traditional courts and the court of public opinion can be unfair, but at least traditional courts offer an opportunity for an appeal that the court of public opinion does not. When a person is unfairly judged guilty in the court of public opinion, there is not a remedy. If Cosby is guilty, it's regrettable some victims didn't come forward earlier, which may have prevented others from being victimized.
Being unfaithful to your spouse is considered by most to be morally wrong, however, it is not a crime. Regardless of Bill Cosby's guilt or innocense, he has certainly betrayed his wife's trust and has acted hypocritically preaching morality to others while performing immoral acts. As People Magazine points out, just because Bill Cosby admitted he gave Quaaludes to a woman he was in a consensual sexual relationship with in the 1970s does not mean he gave other women the drugs "without their knowledge or consent". Simply because a number of women made accusations that Bill Cosby laced their drink with drugs thirty years ago, does not make them true.
False allegations of rape, especially the alleged rape of white women have historically devasted black communities all across America. The myth of black rapists was often expressed by white men who were often worried about black political and economic power and used rape allegations to justify violence. “We of the South have never recognized the right of the Negro to govern white men, and we never will and we have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.” Stated by Sen. Benjamin Tillman on the Senate floor in 1900. The Tulsa race riot of 1921; The Rosewood massacre of 1923 and the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till all occurred because allegations of rape or unwanted sexual advances were made against black men.
The Washington Post points out that while minorities make up 36% percent of the population, only 10% of the lead characters are minority, which by definition means a much smaller percentage are black since some are Hispanic, Asian or others. However, many of America's biggest black stars are disproportionately routine targets of rape and other sex-related charges including: Mike Tyson, R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Mystikal, Tupac Shakur, Chuck Berry, Darren Sharper, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Ceelo Green, Shane Sparks, Sean Kingston, Kobe Bryant, Rev Run (Run-D.M.C.). Other high profile black celebrities that seem to be disproportionately charged with crimes include: Chris Brown, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Michael Vick, Will Smith, Lil Kim, James Brown, Wesley Snipes, T.I., Allen Iverson, O.J. Simpson, Darryl Strawberry, Flavor Flav, Barry Bonds, Remy Ma, Donté Stallworth, and others; the question of racial media bias must be raised.
Watch any of the major entertainment awards shows: Emmys, Grammy's, Oscars, Golden Globe, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Country Music Awards, Video Music Awards, Tonys or the People's Choice, and you'll notice a sea of white entertainers. Black entertainers may be prominently featured on stage, but they represent only a tiny fraction of the entertainers in attendance. Since white entertainers outnumber us about thirteen times, I should be able to rattle off a large number of white stars being charged with sex and other crimes. Once I get past Roman Polanski, I can't think of any other notable white celebrity actually charged with a sex crime. Some including Woody Allen, David Copperfield and Ben Roethlisberger are rumored or alleged but not charged by a prosecutor; usually, the worst sex charges white celebrities seem to get is indecent exposure. So when I see many of our high profile black entertainers, sports figures and even politicians constantly charged with crimes; I can't help but remember how the government and F.B.I. targeted black leaders in the past and wonder if black entertainers are being similarly targeted.
However, I believe statute of limitation laws are important features of our criminal justice and court systems. Over time people's memory fades, evidence is lost or destroyed. When a person is not provided notice that he is suspected or accused of a crime, they may not preserve evidence that may exonerate them. If faced with an unlimited amount of time to answer charges, how could anyone reasonable be expected to defend themselves against charges brought decades later?
Although our court system is imperfect, it does offer an opportunity to correct mistakes. However, the court of public opinion has judged Bill Cosby, guilty as charged, with no right of appeal!
UPDATE 8-6-2015: Bill Cosby Ordered to Give Deposition in Judy Huth Lawsuit – Bill Cosby may have his day in court after all. Hopefully, some of the many women making allegations against Cosby will be called as witnesses where the credibility of their testimony can be determined by a judge or jury under the rules of evidence.
UPDATE 12-30-2015: Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania
UPDATE 1-22-2016: Bill Cosby wins in Pennsylvania court; defamation lawsuit dismissed