I recently found myself in a conversation about Woody Allen and the allegations of sexual assault that started around the time he first married the adopted daughter of his then girlfriend, Mia Farrow, more than 20 years ago. The friend I was talking to was quick to point out that, to date; it has only ever been alleged that Allen sexually assaulted his biological daughter with Farrow, Dylan. Even though records show that Allen had been in therapy with a child psychologist for inappropriate conduct towards Dylan long before the abuse allegations were ever made public in 1995.  Still, my friend had a point. There was something called due process in America and in a perfect world it protects an accused person’s reputation from being tarnished by negative public opinion for their crime.

I then added that by his reasoning, Bill Cosby is also only alleged to have sexually assaulted 57 women and deserves the same right until the facts are proven.  To which my friend said, ‘’No! Cosby is an evil rapist and deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail’’ This made me angry, not because of the cognitive dissonance that allowed him to condemn one public figure for an alleged crime and yet, hold up the specter of due process in defense of another – accused of an arguably far more heinous crime. I was angry because there had been a time when I used to love what Bill Cosby stood for and that my friend could be right.

In no other crime is there more truly a victim than in cases involving sexual assault or rape. A robbery or mugging is jarring but in most cases the attacker doesn’t know the victim and the event is largely impersonal.  A murder victim is spared the pervasive memory of the events that led to their demise. Victims of sexual assault or rape however – have to not only carry an inconceivable amount of psychological pressure, but also a doubt that a full life can be lived again in the weeks, months and years after the assault.

Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable with cast

Equally a crime should be falsely accusing someone of sexual assault. I have luckily never known anyone who this has happened to and I hope I never do. I don’t know how much regard for due process I could muster if someone I knew was accused of sexual assault. I also don’t know Bill Cosby the man but we’re all familiar with what he has done for the black community in America. In watching the cases unfold under the sheer number of women coming forward, I realized that no matter how much I loved what his most memorable character, Cliff Huxtable, stood for, Bill Cosby the man may not be worth saving. His legacy though was a different matter.

Before I get into why, let me give you a sense of where I’m coming from. In 2007, in one of those moments when the popular media was more concerned with something Kanye West said, the Supreme Court quietly overturned Brown vs. Board of Education in a 5-4 dissension led by Chief Justice John Roberts. The landmark ruling had previously deemed it unconstitutional to segregate schools based on skin color. Overturning it meant schools were no longer required to make attempts to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities remain racially mixed. Let that sink in a moment. This meant that it was once again legal for schools to refuse admission of students based on their race.

This decision never made it to the court of public opinion because it was over too quickly. The worst part in overturning this a pillar of the civil rights movement is that the full implications of which, will probably not be felt by our generation. The generation before us fought and sacrificed so that we could have the chance to earn places at Harvard, Yale or Princeton. But now the Supreme Court ruling that had guaranteed this same opportunity be extended to our children, is simply no longer there. Let that sink in too. I forget which one but at the time it was commented by bewildered reporter that,

“Never have so few, reversed so much, so quickly’’

So I apologize in advance to the women reading this who mistakenly surmise that I am yet another man attempting to defend the rape culture. I am not. Know that I am the older brother to two sisters and the father of a young woman. Defending the actions of someone accused of sexually assaulting a woman would not come easy to me, but the information I am going to present needs to be considered before we weigh our final decision on Bill Cosby and by extension, his legacy. If you take down an embodiment of what education can do for members of an impoverished community while also reshuffling the odds against that community, then what chance does it really have to leave systemic poverty for more than generation or two?

Let’s start with the optics – 57 women coming forth and saying the same thing about Cosby. That he drugged and sexually assaulted them. The number alone was highly suggestive of guilt. In the best case scenario that he is found innocent of all allegations; what chance would he then have of recovering from the negative perception created by that optic?…Probably next to none. In the worst case scenario, that he is guilty, he deserves to be condemned. But before adding my voice to his condemnation I wanted to see for myself how warranted it is. What I found was disturbing but given the history of public take downs of black leaders, it was not surprising.

It turns out that in the 57 cases brought forward by Gloria Allred, 10% of the allegations have been proven to be outright lies, 8 % of the women admit to being in consensual relationship with Cosby in some form at the time the alleged assault took place. In 19% of the cases, the allegations occur under circumstances that are indicative of something less than sexual assault and should be investigated further before held up as proof positive of his guilt.

35% of the allegations are based around carefully worded statements where the alleged rape or assault is sometimes not stated emphatically, or the place and method of assault is not mentioned at all but rather implied in an indirect way. Many of these cases were thrown out by prosecutors but not before they were paraded as proof of Cosby’s guilt in the popular media. It is interesting to note that of all these cases, Cosby will only stand trial for the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand. The rest have either passed their statute of limitations or are lacking in evidence and have been thrown out. It is also interesting the media has been very quick to point out when a new allegation came forward yet not so much so when that same allegation was later thrown out.

Bill Cosby

In total, 75% of the claims begin to fall apart once you look at them closely. Let’s first look at the ones that have been proven to be outright lies. Starting with the most high profile accuser, reality TV star Janice Dickinson.

Janice Dickinson:  

Claims that Cosby gave her a pill and assaulted her but her description of the same event in her book, published years earlier, states that Cosby at the same event, had brushed her off and ignored her and that she never actually spent any time alone with Cosby.

Beverly Johnson:    

Johnson claims Cosby attempted to sexual assault her at a dinner in the 80’s. Johnson’s former manager claims that in a previous description of the same event, Johnson stated the encounter was in fact a brunch with Cosby and his wife, Camille and that she was never alone with Cosby. Cosby is suing Johnson for defamation.

Chloe Goins:  

 A convicted prostitute, her claim that Cosby raped her at an event fell within in the statute of limitations. It turns out though that Cosby was 2500 miles away in a different city at the time the alleged sexual assault took place. When confronted about her false claim, she revised her story and then left the public eye. No charges for making a false report were ever brought forward against her.

Joan Tarsish:    

Claims she was raped by Cosby in 1969 at the Westberry Music Festival, records again show that Cosby did not perform at the festival and did not attend.

Louisa Moritz:  

 Moritz claims Cosby sexually assaulted her at a taping of The Tonight show with Johnny Carson in the 60’s. It turns out that Cosby and Moritz were never on the Tonight Show at the same time, when confronted about this she said she might have gotten the date wrong and also promptly left the public eye.

In searching through the list of accusers and their allegations, a striking commonality emerged. Almost all the women were either Playboy models, actresses or models with a vested interest in fame at one point in their lives. Many have since signed book deals as a result of coming forward against Cosby. This in no way excuses Cosby’s alleged actions but it would be irresponsible for us to ignore that Hollywood has a culture and that many of these women had wanted to be a part of it. It would also be irresponsible to ignore that some of these women admitted they thought a relationship with Cosby might bring them closer to fame.

Therese Serignese:

Claims to have been drugged and raped by Cosby in 1976 but continued a relationship with Cosby for many years after that.

Beth Ferrier:

Claims to have been sexually assaulted by Cosby in the mid 80’s but also admits to have been in a long relationship with Cosby at the time.

Barbara Bowman:

Claims Cosby drugged and raped her over the course of many years. Further describes that Cosby would often pay for her to fly to different cities so he could presumably, drug and rape her again.

Shawn Brown:

Alleges that she and Cosby had been in a consensual affair in the 90’s when he one day decided to drug and rape her. In the 90’s Brown’s daughter would  serve jail time for trying to extort 40 million dollars from Cosby.

It is no surprise that so many of these allegations have been thrown out, many simply do not hold up to any meaningful examination. Many have been presented as glaring examples of Cosby’s own admission from a 2005 deposition that he willingly drugged women. The one problem with that being that Cosby never actually admitted to drugging the women. He admitted to getting drugs to give to women. Not something I would teach my son to do, but very different to willfully drugging them for the purpose of sexual assault.

The media has made no attempt to distinguish this fact because it would convey the reality that many of the accusers (who were not shown to be lying) had willfully taken drugs with Cosby. At every turn we have been led to believe that Cosby drugged these women. Their statements, however, are careful to make the distinction that many of the women took the drugs willingly and in some cases that no sexual assault even took place.

Janice Baker Kinney:

In her statement confirms that she willingly took drugs with Cosby.

Sammie Mays:

In her statement Mays never alleges to being drugged or that Cosby even sexually assaulted her. Instead claims to have woken up with her clothes askew after drinking with Cosby.

Joyce Emmons:

Claims to have woken up in bed with Cosby’s friend after presumably being drugged. Not alleging sexual assault by Cosby himself.  

Kaya Thompson:

Never claimed that Cosby drugged or sexually assaulted her, instead she is claiming that Cosby used manipulation to try and get her into bed over the course of a few years. She admits that she brought her odd case forward mainly to support the Andrea Constand’s case.

Lise-Lotte Lublin:

Statement makes absolutely no claim that Cosby sexually assaulted or drugged her.

I implore you the reader to look into the allegations yourself. A search engine search for the official statements taken by Gloria Allred will lead you to online PDF versions for many of the cases. Study the carefully worded statements with a critical eye and you will see that many of them simply do not allege any wrong doing on the part of Cosby.  Instead they require a cleverly hidden mental leap to arrive at Cosby’s guilt.  A leap that is barely noticeable behind the powerful public perception of 57 women saying the same thing. What I have also learned in researching these cases is that the details matter.

Lili Bernard:

Claims Cosby sexually assaulted her in Atlantic City, where there is no statute of limitations on rape or sexual assault yet the Atlantic City prosecutor chose to not prosecute a case against Cosby.

 Linda Joy Traitz:

Was released from prison in 2012 for trafficking drugs and has previous arrests for identity theft and fraud.  Claims that Cosby drove out to beach and simply offered her pills from a suitcase. Again, in a disturbing pattern, no allegation of sexual assault or rape.

Chelan Lasha:

Lasha has a long criminal record containing arrests for false reporting and prostitution.

PJ Matsen:

Claims Cosby drugged and raped her.  Matsen also alleged sexual assault by sports caster, Marv Albert in 1997.  Coincidentally, that case was also led by Gloria Allred.

Heidi Thomas:

Claims to not remember anything over a four day period she spent with Cosby except that he allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted her.

Rebecca Lyn Neal:

Her statement states that she believes Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her but does not say where or when the alleged assault takes place.

Cosby’s lawyers have brought defamation suits against seven of the accusers. Which begs the question; if he’s innocent why not mount lawsuits against all of them?  I don’t know the answer to that. The question I have, after my own research of the cases, is whether the carefully worded statements are an attempt by Ms. Allred to make such a counter-measure unnecessary. After all, if a statement does not explicitly allege any wrong doing, as many do not, then what is there to counter sue for?

I have only mentioned a sampling of what I found here but even if 75% of the cases against Cosby don’t hold up to scrutiny, this still leaves 25% of cases that potentially expose the deviant practices of a sinister individual. And if guilty, this individual deserves to be punished and the social condemnation that would come with it.

Even if it turns out that Cosby only sexually assaulted one victim, it would be one too many and I could never enjoy his work the same. But at a time when the black community is low on progressive holders of the standard, I would make an attempt to retain what he stood for when he was America’s dad. I would appreciate that very few of our community’s’ heroes are still being given the kind of platform that could influence a generation like he did. And that the ones who are, are telling us to ‘’get money’’ but not really much else.

Before I relegate Cosby to that same space in my heart and mind shared by OJ Simpson, R. Kelley and Marion Barry, I would remember that he spent eight seasons promoting the image of the successful black family. That he had a lifelong commitment to education and was an inspiration to so many for so long. That he actively sought to be the driving force leading blacks all over the world to better themselves and then better their communities.

I would remember that his reason for attempting to buy a major TV network was to be in a position to offer a perpetual counter balance to the negative images of black people currently displayed. That he wanted to present us to the world as something more than the monolithic trope of gangsters, the morally bankrupt and the generationally poor.

But how? How do we now hold on to the legacy of man who circumstances may soon show to be a villain? The answer is we don’t. Instead, we remember him at his best and keep the ideals that we know to be in our interest, and we do this consciously. Not because we want to honor his legacy, but to honor ourselves and how far we have come.