Early Bill Cosby accuser files sexual assault lawsuit under expiring New York Adult Survivors Act

A woman who previously accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault has filed a lawsuit against him under a New York law that’s set to expire this week.

In 2014, journalist and publicist Joan Tarshis told CNN the actor had sexually assaulted her decades prior, when she was a teenager. Those alleged incidents are repeated in the lawsuit filed Friday in New York County Supreme Court.

The lawsuit accuses Cosby of battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. Tarshis is seeking unspecified damages.

The lawsuit was brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which was signed into law in May 2022. Six months after signing, the law opened a one-year lookback window for adult survivors of sexual offenses to sue their alleged abusers, even if the statute of limitations on their claims had expired. Because many victims of sexual abuse can take years to publicly speak about their traumas, the lookback window is intended to give them an opportunity to have their day in court.

The law’s one-year lookback window is set to end this week.

Cosby spokesperson Andrew Wyatt said he had no comment on Tarshis’ allegations.

“(T)hese Look Back Windows are like a pandemic to successful, wealthy men in America,” Wyatt said in a statement to CNN. “When will our lawmakers stop fueling this assault for likes and clicks?”

In 2014, when Tarshis joined a group of other women accusing Cosby of sexual assault, a lawyer for Cosby at the time addressed “discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby” that had resurfaced.

“The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true,” attorney John P. Schmitt said in the 2014 statement. “Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

Tarshis claims Cosby sexually assaulted and raped her over 50 years ago

Tarshis met Cosby around 1969, when she was a young comedy writer and he was starring in “The Bill Cosby Show,” according to the lawsuit.

Tarshis says she visited the studio where the sitcom was filmed after Cosby offered to work with her on a skit. When the two were alone in his bungalow, she drank a beverage Cosby gave her and then lost consciousness, the lawsuit says.

Tarshis woke up to Cosby undressing her, the lawsuit alleges. She fought him and pleaded for him to stop, but the lawsuit claims Cosby made her perform oral sex on him.

At the time, Tarshis did not tell anyone about the assault due to safety concerns and her feelings of “shame, embarrassment, and humiliation,” the lawsuit says.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for sentencing in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on September 24, 2018. - Brendan McDermid/Reuters/FILE
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for sentencing in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on September 24, 2018. - Brendan McDermid/Reuters/FILE

Around 1971, Cosby called Tarshis’ home to invite her to one of his shows and spoke with her mother, who didn’t know about the prior incident, according to the court documents.

Although she was scared to see Cosby again, Tarshis “reluctantly” accepted his invitation “at the insistence of her mother,” the lawsuit says.

Tarshis had two drinks with Cosby before the show and then started to feel weak as the show began, the lawsuit claims. Aided by Cosby’s driver, she went back to Cosby’s limousine and lost consciousness, the lawsuit alleges.

“When Ms. Tarshis awoke, it was the next morning, she was in Manhattan, and she was naked in a bed next to Cosby, who was also undressed,” the lawsuit says, claiming Cosby raped her while she was unconscious.

Tarshis alleges Cosby’s “predatory, abusive, manipulative, and unlawful acts” have caused physical and severe psychological injuries, economic losses, and other negative impacts, according to the court documents.

In 2018, Cosby was convicted in Pennsylvania of sexual assault in another case and sentenced to 3 to 10 years in a state prison. He was released from prison in 2021 after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned that conviction, saying Cosby’s due process rights were violated.

Other women have also come forward with sexual assault allegations under New York’s adult survivors law. Last December, five women – including two former actresses on “The Cosby Show” – filed a lawsuit in New York state court accusing Cosby of sexual assault and abuse dating back decades. A spokesperson for Cosby has denied the allegations.

CNN’s Steve Forrest contributed to this report.

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