Bill Cosby’s 2018 felony-sexual-assault conviction was overturned earlier this year, but the 84-year-old comedian is now facing a civil suit in New Jersey federal court. Lili Bernard, an actress who appeared on the hit television series The Cosby Show, claims Cosby drugged and raped her in August 1990 at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Cosby took such a liking to the young actress and they became so close, Bernard claims, that Cosby even encouraged her to call him “Daddy.” But when she began to feel “symptoms of dizziness, an urge to vomit, and weakness” after Cosby allegedly provided her with a nonalcoholic beverage in his hotel suite, Bernard said, she drifted in and out of consciousness. When she awoke, she said, Cosby was naked on top of her while she told him no. By the next morning, the actress alleges, Cosby gave her money and provided transportation from the hotel back to New York, where she was living. “Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted, battered and drugged Ms. Bernard on additional occasions,” the lawsuit claims.
“I have waited a long time to be able to pursue my case in court,” Bernard said in a statement, “and I look forward to being heard and to hold Cosby accountable for what he did to me. Although it occurred long ago, I still live with the fear, pain and shame every day of my life.”
Along with other accusers, Bernard attended both of Cosby’s criminal trials outside of Philadelphia when he faced charges of drugging and raping Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. Although the first trial ended in a hung jury in 2017, a second jury found Cosby guilty on all three counts of felony sexual assault one year later. He was jailed and registered as a sex offender and ended up serving more than two of his three-to-ten-year sentence before his conviction was overturned in June due to technicalities. Not only was Cosby freed, Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled that he could no longer be tried again for the same crimes in criminal court.
In New Jersey, however, the state allows a two-year window for sexual-abuse survivors to bring civil claims regardless of when an assault is alleged to have occurred. As such, Bernard is seeking “an amount no less than” $25 million in damages, saying she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with symptoms including anxiety, nightmares, depression, and severe physical pain.
Constand, who became the focus of the criminal trials, published a book this year, The Moment: Standing Up to Bill Cosby, Speaking Up for Women, in which she recounts her experiences and how she reacted after learning Cosby would walk out of prison a free man. “I had a lump in my throat,” Constand told the New York Times. “I really felt they were setting a predator loose, and that made me sick.”
To date, more than 60 women have come forward claiming Cosby drugged and/or sexually assaulted them during the past five decades. The actor has always maintained his innocence. His spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said Cosby is “willing and able to take this fight to the highest court in these United States,” calling Bernard’s lawsuit “just another attempt to abuse the legal process.”