A federal appeals court rejected a plea to revive a defamation lawsuit against disgraced entertainer Bill Cosby.
The claim dates back to an incident which purportedly took place in 1974.
An actress says that Cosby raped her, and later went public with the accusation. After she published an account of her ordeal in a newspaper interview, the once-popular comedian called said she was a “liar.”
Reuters reports that the lawsuit was filed by Kathrine McKee and centers around a letter sent by one of Cosby’s attorneys to New York’s Daily News in 2014, just as the wave of sexual assault allegations against Cosby began piling up.
Since the statue of allegations had long expired on the crimes Cosby may have committed, several women claiming to be victims opted to pursue civil lawsuits.
The condemnations of the comedian and long-time host of the “The Cosby Show” spanned nearly the length of his career. Dozens of women came forward, saying they’d been harassed or assaulted by the man.
Since 2014, the now-80-year old Cosby has defended himself and denied any and all wrongdoing.
Although he didn’t dispute that he’d had sexual relations with his accusers, he posited them as ‘consensual’ encounters. Reuters notes that he’s now awaiting retrial in April on charges that he sexually assaulted a former women’s basketball coach at Temple University, his alma mater.
McKee and her lawyer say that the letter Cosby’s attorney sent to the Daily News was a slight against her reputation.
They say the article was “defamatory, characterizing her claims as “wild” and suggesting she had a criminal record.”
Nevertheless, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stood by an earlier judgment, ruling that Cosby couldn’t be sued over the contents of the letter.
The decision suggested that McKee, by publicly wading into the Cosby controversy, could no longer consider her dispute with the entertainer private.
“As a public figure, McKee would have to prove that Cosby acted with malice in his response,” explains Reuters.
“The web of sexual assault allegations implicating Cosby, an internationally renowned comedian commonly referred to as ‘America’s Dad,’ constitutes a public controversy,” opined U.S. Circuit Court Judge Sandra Lynch, writing on behalf of the three-judge panel.
McKee’s attorney, William Salo, indicated his displeasure with the response and said they may appeal the decision.
“They’re saying that just because a famous person rapes you, you become a public figure if you complain about it,” said Salo.