Pittsburgh-area woman sues Bill Cosby for defamation

Joe Mandak
Associated Press

Pittsburgh — A woman who appeared on an educational children’s TV show as a teenager with Bill Cosby has sued him, saying he defamed her after she gave an interview claiming he sexually abused her in the 1980s.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by 48-year-old Renita Hill, of Baldwin, says Cosby helped pay for her college tuition and housing until she broke off contact with him in 1987 after years of abuse.

Hill is one of more than two dozen women to accuse Cosby of similar abuse dating to the 1960s, though only a few have sued him. Hill is the fourth to sue him for defamation. Another woman, a former employee at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, sued, claiming he abused her while acting as a mentor. She settled her lawsuit out of court in 2006.

According to the newest lawsuit, Hill was 16 when she met Cosby during a 1983 talent search for “Picture Pages,” which he hosted.

Cosby hired her and shortly afterward began flying her to cities where he was performing, including Denver, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and New York. There, he’d give her alcohol she believes was laced with drugs and molest her in hotel rooms he provided, the lawsuit said.

“Once Cosby finished his show, or business, Renita would be summoned to his room. Once there, Cosby would hand Renita a glass with some form of liquid in it and instruct her to ‘drink that,’” the lawsuit said.

Most of the time, after drinking, “Renita would lose consciousness and wake up in her room the next day, oftentimes nude, disheveled, confused and disoriented,” the lawsuit said.

Hill assumed the first time it happened she had just drunk too much and “blacked out.”

“However, it soon became clear to Renita that she was being assaulted and taken advantage of during these occasions, and that she was just not ‘blacking out’ from alcohol intake,” but rather that “the drinks provided to her by Cosby contained drug(s) that affected her consciousness, memory and perception,” the lawsuit said.

The abuse continued sporadically until 1987, when Hill broke off contact with Cosby while she was a sophomore in college and refused to let him continue paying for her college and housing, the lawsuit said.

The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse, but Hill’s attorney says she doesn’t want to be anonymous. They planned a news conference Thursday to discuss the lawsuit, which was filed in Pittsburgh.

Cosby’s lawyers and publicist didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Hill decided to come forward in November after other women began renewing similar allegations against Cosby, who has never been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied all similar accusations.

Hill said she was defamed by various comments and statements that Cosby made about his accusers or that were issued on Cosby’s behalf by his wife and attorney.

None of the statements named Hill, but all were made or issued after she publicly accused him on KDKA-TV, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, a day after Hill’s interview, Cosby attorney Martin Singer issued a statement saying: “The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity.”

Cosby told Florida Today after Hill came forward: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” the lawsuit said.

In December, Cosby’s wife, Camille, released a letter questioning the honesty of Cosby’s accusers, saying, “There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired.”

Those statements, the lawsuit said, were “made and broadcast with the intent to paint Renita; and the other women who had come public with allegations and accusations of sexual abuse, as liars.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for defamation and emotional distress stemming from both the alleged abuse and Cosby denials.