Judge Tosses Parts of Cosby’s Suit On Secrecy

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Bill Cosby’s latest day in court was a mixed bag, with a federal judge partially advancing his claims that sexual assault accuser Andrea Constand and her lawyers breached the terms of her settlement.
     U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno ruled Friday that the actor can sue Constand for breaching a confidential settlement agreement she signed in 2006, when she became the first woman to publicly accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
     The agreement governed the terms of Constand’s settlement in a civil libel suit against Cosby and American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Inquirer.
     She had claimed both the comedian and the magazine defamed her in statements about the investigation into her rape accusations.
     Its terms bound Constand, the Enquirer, and her lawyers to silence regarding her accusations against Cosby and the details of the litigation that ensued.
     A decade later, Constand’s case against Cosby has once again thrust into the public eye amid new rape accusations from a slew of other women.
     The comedian is claiming in court that all involved parties breached the agreement by talking about the case. Each defendant filed a motion to dismiss Cosby’s breach of contract claims against them, which Judge Robreno reviewed one by one in Friday’s ruling.
     His decision first advanced Cosby’s claim that Constand had violated their agreement with two 2014 tweets about her alleged rape.
     According to Cosby’s suit, Constand wrote on Twitter, “I won’t go away, there is a lot more I will say,” and “It’s not that everybody forgot about it, truth is nobody cared.”
     The ruling rejected Constand’s argument that her tweets were permissible because she did not mention Cosby by name.
     Because her statements referred loosely to the alleged incident, whether or not she was in fact talking about Cosby is a question that merits being answered in court, Robreno said.
     The judge used similar logic in advancing Cosby’s claims against American Media.
     The actor argued that the Enquirer broke its vow of silence by discussing Constand’s allegations against him in several articles about his new accusers, which reportedly had titles like “99 Victims in 43 Years for Bill Cosby!” and “Bill Cosby’s Sickening Attacks Behind the Scenes of the Cosby Show.”
     Judge Robreno wrote that “questions of fact remain” as to whether those articles disclosed details of Constand’s case that had previously been kept private by the settlement, dismissing the tabloid’s arguments to the contrary as “unpersuasive.”
     Far less successful were Cosby’s claims that all parties involved in Constand’s suit had violated the settlement agreement by cooperating with police in a criminal investigation of the alleged assault, which after new accusations against the star were levied.
     The Montgomery County, Pennsylvania district attorney, where Constand claims Cosby raped her in his home, declined to press charges when she initially came forward, according to court documents.
     Constand and lawyers, Jennifer Troiani and Bebe Kivitz, who were also sued by Cosby for alleged breach of the settlement, had a legal duty to aid in the criminal investigation against the star, the judge said. T
     heir obligation to do so trumps any private agreement they made with Cosby and renders their vow of silence “unenforceable” in this specific situation, the ruling states.
     “A contract based on a promise or agreement to keep secret a crime which has been committed is opposed to public policy and offensive to the law,” Robreno wrote, quoting one of many federal precedents that he applied to the case.
     “It is the obligation of the courts to refrain from the exertion of such judicial power,” the judge continues.
     Constand’s sister, Gianna Constand, who was also a party to the 2006 settlement, was eliminated as a defendant from Cosby’s breach of contract lawsuit by virtue of the judge’s decision that talking to the police about the case did not violate its terms.
     The ruling did advance Cosby’s breach of contract claims against the lawyers for representing Constand in her lawsuit against onetime Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor, who allegedly defamed the woman in order to justify his decision not to criminally charge Cosby with rape when she first came forward with her accusations.
     Troiani and Kivitz publicized their client’s defamation suit against Castor with a January 2015 open letter in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The letter lambasted the former DA for his “revisionist history” in public statements on Constand’s case and urging him to “issue the apology to her that is 10 years overdue.”
     The lawyers’ public discussion of the matter means they went back on the promise they made when they signed on the dotted line, Cosby argued. Judge Robreno found merit in his claim, stating that it “remains to be seen” whether or not the statements the lawyers made had already been a matter of public record as they contended in their motion to dismiss the suit.
     Cosby’s successful claims represented a rare glimmer of hope for the embattled comedian, whose circumstances of late are otherwise reportedly pretty bleak.
     A Tuesday article in the New York Post painted a gloomy picture of the 79 -year-old’s life and health, citing an inside source who claimed the former star is confined to his Pennsylvania home with degenerative eye disease, which has left him “completely blind,” and is “in his own personal hell.”
     Cosby will now await a verdict in the civil claims not thrown out by Judge Robreno, along with several other civil and criminal matters still pending.

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