FILE PHOTO: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after his first day of sentencing hearings in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
(Reuters) – Convicted sex offender Bill Cosby on Friday settled a federal defamation lawsuit brought by seven women who said the former actor and comedian sexually assaulted them and wrongly called them liars when they went public with their charges years later.
The settlement ends a court fight that predates the 81-year-old’s conviction a year ago for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University administrator, in 2004. Cosby is currently serving a 3- to 10-year sentence for that crime, though his lawyers plan an appeal.
He was the first celebrity convicted of sexual misconduct since the rise of the #MeToo movement, which cast a harsh light on widespread patterns of sexual harassment or abuse in multiple spheres of American life and ended the careers of dozens of powerful men in American media, politics and business.
The settlement covers seven of some 50 women who emerged over the past decade to level sex abuse charges against the once-beloved star of “The Cosby Show,” who built a decades-long career on a family-friendly style of comedy.
All the allegations but Constand’s were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution, which prompted the seven women to sue for defamation when Cosby accused them of lying.
“Each Plaintiff is satisfied with the settlement,” attorneys for Cosby said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, near one of Cosby’s homes. They did not disclose the terms of the agreement.
The defamation suit was filed in December 2014. One of the seven, Louisa Moritz, an actress best known for appearing in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died in January at age 72.
The other plaintiffs were Barbara Bowman, who said she was a 17-year-old aspiring actress when she was assaulted in 1985; Tamara Green, who said she was a young model in the early 1970s when she was attacked; actress Angela Leslie, who said her attack took place in 1992; Therese Serignese, now a registered nurse who said she was 19 when she was attacked in 1976; Joan Tarshis, who said she was 19 at the time of her attack in 1969; and Linda Traitz, who said she was an 18-year-old waitress when she became a victim in 1969.
Cosby has denied the accusations and maintained his innocence.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio