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Former model Janice Dickinson won a significant round in her legal fight with Bill Cosby, and it was a long time coming.
Fifteen years ago, Dickson told her publishers that Cosby had drugged and raped her but they feared civil liability. Her memoir was published with a sanitized version -- and then this happened: dozens more women made accusations of sexual assault against the former comedian.
After Dickinson went public in 2014, Cosby's lawyer attacked her in the media, so she sued for defamation. Now a California appeals court has slapped Cosby and his lawyer.
This is not one of the sexual assault cases against Cosby; those are pending in other courts. In Dickinson v. Cosby, Dickinson alleges Cosby and lawyer Martin Singer defamed her in a demand letter and press release.
On Nov. 18, 2014, Dickinson said in an interview on Entertainment Tonight that Cosby had raped her. Singer then sent a letter to several media outlets, threatening to sue if they repeated the story.
He said that Dickinson had fabricated the incident and was "seeking publicity to bolster her fading career." He sent out a press release the next day, calling the rape accusation "a lie."
Dickinson sued Cosby for defamation and later amended to include Singer. Cosby, in the meantime, filed an anti-SLAPP motion.
A trial judge partially granted the motion, but the Second District Court of Appeals turned everything back against Cosby. The court also rebuffed his lawyer, who claimed that his letter was protected by the litigation privilege.
"The demand letter was a bluff intended to frighten the media outlets into silence," the judges said.
Singer sent the letter only to the media, the panel observed, and the attorney did not sue any who ran the story. The appeals court said the words were "hollow threats of litigation," and the litigation privilege did not apply.
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