Nov 9, 2015 4:52 PM
SPRINGFIELD, M.A. – Seeking compensatory damages and a jury trial, a New Hampshire woman has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against legendary actor and comedian Bill Cosby.
Attorneys for Kristina Ruehli, 72, of Windham, filed the defamation suit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Monday. Ruehli had formerly said in interviews with NH1 News and other media outlets that she did not have plans to file legal action against Cosby.
The suit alleges that Cosby denied Ruehli's assault claims by issuing a statement through his former attorney on Nov. 21, 2014.
The statement, issued by Cosby’s former attorney Martin Singer, reads (in part):
"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 past the point of absurdity.”
Ruehli’s complaint says Cosby’s statement, released to the media after Ruehli gave an interview to Philadelphia Magazine, was “false and defamatory” – and that it “damaged” Ruehli and other alleged victims by identifying them as “unreliable liars.”
The complaint, which requests a jury trial, seeks a verdict that “will vindicate” Ruehli’s story of events that allegedly occurred more than 50 years ago. It states that Cosby’s “false and defamatory statements” held Ruehli “up to public scorn and ridicule, injured her good name and reputation, and caused her severe emotional distress.”
The suit also alleges that Cosby is “liable for the damages his statements have caused and continue to cause, including enhanced compensatory damages".
By publicly denying allegations, Ruehli's claim alleges that Cosby "acted with hatred, hostility, ill will or evil motive."
Ruehli, now a grandmother, has brought forth allegations that date back to 1965 when she was 22-years-old and went by the name of Donna Czapla.
At the time, Ruehli said she was working as a legal secretary at Artists Agency Corp., although she does not possess documented evidence to support her past employment.
She alleges that during December of that year, Cosby was at her office on a day he was scheduled to appear as a guest on "Hollywood Palace". Ruehli claims that Cosby invited her and several co-workers to a party following the show's taping.
"I thought that sounded like great," Ruehli said during a Nov. 22, 2014 interview with NH1 News. It was her first television appearance in which she spoke publicly about the allegations.
During that interview, Ruehli said it was not uncommon to be invited to celebrity's homes as an employee at a talent agency.
"He was very well-liked at the agency, as were most of our clients," Ruehli continued.
During a follow-up interview in October 2015, Ruehli said she was unsure why Cosby was at her office that day because she had since learned he was not contracted with her talent agency.
On the night in 1965, when Ruehli alleges Cosby invited her over, she said she picked up an actress who needed a ride to Cosby's party. Ruehli has not publicly identified the actress, citing privacy concerns, and the civil suit filed Monday did not make mention of her. However, Ruehli has said the two were the only ones who showed up at Cosby's house the night she was allegedly assaulted.
"The front of the house was brick, I remember that. And I think it was some sort of a tudor style," she said in the 2014 NH1 News interview.
Ruehli, who believes Cosby's wife was away on the night she allegedly visited his California home, said Cosby brought her into a room to see "an infant child in a crib" before offering her a drink.
She said she then consumed two bourbon-and-seven's, before her memory becomes blurry.
"I have no memory of anything, except in some blurry, foggy sort of way that I was out by a pool," Ruehli has told NH1 News.
Ruehli alleges that she passed out and later woke up in a bedroom next to Cosby, who Ruehli said was trying to get her to perform oral sex on him while she was naked.
"His shirt was already off, and possibly his pants," Ruehli said in 2014. "He was attempting to push my head down onto his erect penis. I didn't resist so much, as the fact that I became fully awake and aware and realized that I was very nauseous."
After quickly rushing to the bathroom to throw up, Ruehli said she returned to the bedroom to find Cosby had left - and she hasn't seen him since.
"I only thought of him occasionally when I heard about him in the news, and then I thought I know another side of this guy," she said.
Ruehli said she drove home from Cosby's house, unsure what had happened to the actress that had allegedly accompanied her.
"I just felt, how did I get into this mess? Oh my god, this is really embarrassing," Ruehli said in 2014 about the alleged incident.
Ruehli said she decided to keep quiet about her alleged interaction with Cosby for decades, remembering only that she shared details with her then-boyfriend and possibly members of her family.
DECIDING TO SPEAK OUT PUBLICLY
In 2005, a civil lawsuit was filed by Andrea Constand, a former director of operations for the Temple University women's basketball team who accused Cosby of formerly drugging and sexually assaulting her.
After reading about the Constand case, Ruehli said it motivated her to come forward anonymously as one of about a dozen "Jane Does" who Ruehli said had similar stories as Constand.
In 2014, as more women started to come forward, Ruehli came forward publicly for the first time in an interview with Philadelphia Magazine. She told the outlet that her only motivation was "to tell the truth to back up other people."
"I didn't think I was damaged, so there wouldn't be any lawsuit coming from me. I don't need money or aggravation. I'm very wealthy, so I have nothing to gain," Ruehli is quoted in the article, published on Nov. 21, 2014.
COSBY'S RESPONSE & HIS REPUTATION DOWNFALL
As of today - nearly a year after Ruehli became the tenth woman to accuse Cosby publicly - about 40 additional women have come forward with similar allegations.
Although not the first to come forward, Ruehli appears to bring forth the most dated allegation to 1965.
Cosby, meanwhile, has been overall silent when asked about the accusers. He declined to discuss the allegations in interviews with NPR and the Associated Press, but responses offered through his attorneys have denied the claims.
The actor and comedian has never been charged with a crime, but accusations from yet another alleged victim recently brought him back to the judicial system to answer questions.
Last month, Cosby was deposed in a civil lawsuit that stems back to an alleged sexual assault in 1974. The case was brought forth by Judy Huth, then 15-years-old, who has accused Cosby of raping her at the Playboy Mansion.
Cosby's offered testimony in the Huth case marked the first time he had been deposed since the Constand case in 2005.
Leaked documents from questioning a decade ago revealed Cosby admitted, under oath, that he obtained sedatives and gave them to women he wanted to have sex with. However, Cosby testified that both sex and drugs were always consensual.
To date, Cosby has always maintained that he is innocent. But that didn’t stop him from cancelling scheduled comedy performances last year across the country as more and more women started to speak publicly about their accusations of assault.
Following the allegations, many television networks – including WBIN-TV, the broadcast network of NH1 News – cancelled all regularly scheduled broadcasts of The Cosby Show and other Cosby programming.
Responding to a NH1 News request for comment, the actor's publicist, Andrew Wyatt, said Cosby's attorney Monique Pressley would not be releasing a statement at the present time.
KRISTINA RUEHLI IN PREVIOUS NH1 NEWS INTERVIEWS:
- "My attitude towards him is one of great pity."
- "I don't care if people believe me. I know that I'm telling the truth."
- "If I don't come forward, I'm an enabler. People need to speak up or it will continue."
- "Why doesn't he just come out and speak about the subject?"
- "I kept waiting 'til all the others arrived. The others did not arrive."
- "This stuff catches up with you."
- "He has everything - and he has thrown it away on this rape. Rape is about power and anger. And that's what this is about."
- "I was one of the lucky ones that got away."
- "I feel sorry for him."
- "I thought it was the right thing to do."
- "I can't just say that happened. At the end of all of this, none of us can say that happened."
- "I had forgotten about it over the years because that was 50 years ago."
- "This story is only halfway through. I am aware of several dozen others."
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