Bill Cosby's bid to reseal testimony on affairs and sedatives rejected
Bill Cosby's effort to reseal his deposition testimony about extramarital affairs, prescription sedatives and payments to women has been rejected by a US federal appeals court.
"The contents of the documents are a matter of public knowledge, and we cannot pretend that we could change that fact by ordering them resealed," the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia wrote in an opinion.
Cosby's lawyers hoped a ruling in their favour could help them keep the documents from being used in the criminal case against him in Pennsylvania and in the many lawsuits filed around the country by women who accuse him of sexual assault or defamation.
Cosby gave the testimony in 2005 as part of a lawsuit brought against him by Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee who said he drugged and molested her at his home. She later settled for an undisclosed sum, and sensitive documents in the file remained sealed.
In the nearly 1,000-page deposition, the married comic once known as "America's Dad" for his beloved portrayal of Dr Cliff Huxtable on his top-ranked 1980s TV series The Cosby Show, admitted to several extramarital affairs and said he obtained quaaludes to give to women he hoped to seduce.
The documents were released last year on a request from the Associated Press (AP). US District Judge Eduardo Robreno found the public had a right to Cosby's testimony because of his role as a self-appointed "public moralist" and because he had denied accusations he drugged and molested women.
In court papers, his lawyers argued that he had been assured confidentiality and that the "private and embarrassing testimony" would cause serious injury to Cosby, "who relies upon his reputation for his livelihood".
Gayle C Sproul, a lawyer for the AP, had argued against resealing the documents, saying that Cosby had not only spoken out on issues of marriage and morality but had also profited from them through books, TV shows and advertising.
Cosby's lawyers had said a ruling in their favour would allow him to argue in the other cases against him that the testimony should never have been made public in the first place and should not be admitted as evidence.
The release of the deposition led prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia to revisit Ms Constand's 2005 police complaint and charge Cosby in December with felony sexual assault.
Cosby, 79, insists his sexual encounter with Ms Constand in 2004 was consensual. He remains free on one million dollar (£776,000) bail, and no trial date has been set.