A jury found that Bill Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in the 1970s in the first civil case to go to trial since the disgraced comedian's criminal rape conviction was overturned last year.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded Judy Huth $500,000 for emotional distress after finding that Cosby intended to cause her harm by making "sexually offensive contact" with her. Huth had accused the now–84-year-old comedian of sexually assaulting her at Hugh Hefner's famous home in 1975 when she was just 16 years old.
The verdict comes a year after Cosby was freed from prison and his criminal rape conviction was overturned after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court found that an agreement the comedian made with prosecutors in 2005 should have prevented charges from ever being filed.
The Pennsylvania court's stunning decision dealt a huge blow to the #MeToo movement. The conviction had been a milestone for the movement, with Cosby, who was accused of drugging and assaulting more than 60 women, becoming the first major celebrity to be convicted of sexual assault and thrown in prison.
Huth's case was the first civil matter to go to trial since his release. During the trial in Santa Monica, Huth fought back tears as she testified about how Cosby forced her to hold his penis as he masturbated, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I had my eyes closed at that point,” Huth, 64, said, according to the Times. “I was freaking out.”
During their questioning, attorneys for Cosby, who was reportedly not present in the courtroom for the trial, pressed Huth on why she altered her story to say that the incident happened in 1975 when she was 16, after originally claiming it occurred in 1974 when she was 15. Huth testified that pictures of Cosby and the date of a National Enquirer issue that featured another actor she saw that night made her realize it happened in 1975, not in 1974, the Times reported.
Jurors ultimately ruled in favor of Huth on seven out of nine questions they were tasked with answering, finding that Cosby did not "actually and reasonably believe" that she was at least 18 years old at the time of the incident and that his conduct was "motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in Ms. Huth, a minor."
Jurors did not believe Huth's attorneys proved Cosby acted with "malice, oppression, or fraud" and answered that no, she did not file her complaint within five years of discovering the psychological harm caused by the incident.
After the verdict was announced, Huth smiled as she told a reporter in the courtroom that she felt "vindicated," the New York Times reported.
“It’s a big, big step forward for all the victims out there,” she said, according to the Times. “It’s about time he has paid for what he has done to so many women.”