Cosby Can’t Put Lid Back on Quaalude Admission

     (CN) — The Third Circuit refused Monday to let Bill Cosby reseal a damning deposition in which the comedian admitted to buying quaaludes to give to women before having sex with them.
     Cosby made the startling admission in a 2005 deposition while battling civil charges that he drugged and raped a woman named Andrea Constand at his home in Cheltenham, Pa.
     Though Cosby quickly settled with Constand, interest in the sealed case gained momentum after a decade when comedian Hannibal Buress went viral with a stand-up bit revisiting the claims.
     Dozens of women with stories like Constand’s came forward in the following months, describing encounters at odds with the Dr. Huxtable image dating back to the 1970s.
     The Associated Press was among news outlets that began researching how Cosby handled the past claims, and U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno granted its request for the Constand transcript last year, saying Cobsy had forfeited any privacy interest by clinging to his clean image.
     “This case, however, is not about defendant’s status as a public person by virtue of the exercise of his trade as a televised or comedic personality,” Robreno wrote. “Rather, Defendant has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education, and crime … he has voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim.”
     Widespread reporting of the deposition soon inspired Pennsylvania reporters to revisit Constand’s criminal case against Cosby.
     To date, Constand is the only Cosby accuser to hurdle the statute of limitations. The trial is expected to begin this fall, and Cosby’s deposition will feature heavily.
     A three-judge panel the Third Circuit rejected Cosby’s appeal to reseal the deposition Monday.
     “The contents of the documents are a matter of public knowledge, and we cannot pretend that we could change that fact by ordering them resealed,” U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote for the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court.
     The documents reveal a particularly acrimonious dynamic between Constand and Cosby’s respective attorneys in 2005. Most of the unsealed files relate to motions to either seal the deposition transcripts or make them public.
     In support of a motion to sanction Cosby’s lawyer, Constand’s lawyers provided an alleged instance of attorney obstructionism during a deposition of Cosby in which Patrick O’Connor, Cosby’s lawyer and a founding partner of the Philadelphia law firm Cozen O’Connor, instructed Cosby not to answer.
     “When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?” Dolores Troiani, one of Constand’s attorneys, asked Cosby, according to the transcript.
     “Yes,” Cosby said.
     “Did you ever give any of those young women quaaludes without their knowledge?”
     “Object to the question,” O’Connor said. “Restrict it to Jane Does, would you please.”
     “No, I will not,” Troiani said.
     “Do not answer it,” O’Connor instructed Cosby.
     Given the intense public interest in this case, Ambro said there was little the court could do to protect Cosby’s privacy interests at this junction.
     “When it comes to public awareness of the documents’ contents, the feathers of the pillow are scattered to the winds; nearly everyone in America (and many more around the world) with access to a computer either know what Cosby has admitted to doing or could find out with a few clicks, and this will remain true even if we order the documents resealed,” Ambro said (parentheses in original).
     Insofar as an order resealing the documents would better position Cosby to argue in court that the documents are inadmissible, the appellate panel said such an argument essentially asks for an advisory opinion, which is forbidden.
     “We cannot issue an advisory opinion simply to ‘make clear’ to the news media that the District Court’s order does not entitle them to access any documents beyond those already unsealed,” Ambro said.
     The panel said it would leave the question of how to balance significant public and private interests for another day.
     “Our decision merely recognizes the limits of our own power in this case,” the panel concluded.
     Cosby’s court defeat today comes just weeks after withdrawing his contract case against Constand.

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