A lawyer for Bill Cosby told jurors they need to look past years of public accusations against the actor and comedian and consider only the evidence presented by a woman who says he sexually abused her at the Playboy Mansion in 1975 when she was 16 years old.
During closing arguments at a California civil trial on Tuesday that would devolve into bizarre bickering over the video game Donkey Kong, Cosby lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said plaintiff Judy Huth and her lawyers did not come close to proving “her 50-year-old, he-said-she-said case”.
“Can you imagine how hard it is to defend a case when you start with the label of sexual predator?” Ms Bonjean told the jurors, reminding them they were chosen because they promised they would be able to consider only the facts presented in court.
“If we were just going to try people based on labels, then why have trials at all?”
Ms Huth’s lawyer Nathan Goldberg told the jury that “my client deserves to have Mr Cosby held accountable for what he did”.
“Each of you knows in your heart that Mr Cosby sexually assaulted Miss Huff,” Mr Goldberg said.
He denied that any sexual activity took place between himself and Ms Huth in a 2015 video deposition shown to jurors.
The denial has been repeated throughout the trial by his spokesman and his lawyer.
Ms Bonjean began the defence’s closing argument by thanking jurors and then telling them: “All I have to say is, it’s on like Donkey Kong”, a callback to what both sides during the trial called “The Donkey Kong defence”.
Ms Huth said from the witness box that Cosby exposed himself and forced her to perform a sex act in a bedroom adjacent to a game room at the mansion, where Cosby had brought Ms Huth and her then-17-year-old friend Donna Samuelson, a key witness at the trial.
In previous depositions and police interviews, the women discussed Ms Samuelson in 1975 playing Donkey Kong, a game Nintendo did not release into arcades until 1981.
Ms Goldberg told jurors in his closing that Ms Samuelson had said “games like Donkey Kong” in her first reference to it during the deposition.
She gave a similar explanation while giving evidence at the trial.
But Ms Bonjean said it was clear evidence of a pattern of Ms Samuelson and Ms Huth co-ordinating their stories despite saying in court they had barely talked in the decades since.
“They both get things wrong in the exact same way,” Ms Bonjean said.
At the end of her closing argument, Ms Bonjean said: “This was in some ways the Donkey Kong defence, and it’s going to end as it should. Game over.”
Mr Goldberg reacted angrily during his rebuttal.
“We don’t need game over! We need justice!”
Soon after, he snapped at Ms Bonjean when she raised one of many objections, saying she does not think the rules apply to her.
She said: “This is about me now? Are you going to put my picture up there?”
“I would put your picture up and put ‘game over’ on it,” Mr Goldberg said.
Similar bickering occurred between the two throughout the trial, and had boiled over earlier on Wednesday when Mr Goldberg said a defence expert was “a nice lady, with a nice smile”, implying she had little else to offer in the case.
In an earlier, calmer moment, Mr Goldberg told jurors that Cosby had every reason to believe the two girls were under 18 when he met them at a Southern California park and invited them to meet up with him a few days later.
Ms Huth said in evidence that they had told him.
Ms Samuelson said she did not remember specifically giving their ages, but said they would have told him if it came up.
Ms Bonjean said jurors could not reasonably believe Cosby knew as much, and put pictures on the screen of the girls from around the same time.
“These were young women who did not present as children or even young teenagers,” Ms Bonjean said.
She added that the women’s evidence that no one at the mansion asked their ages after Cosby left them alone there showed as much.
“They looked like a lot of the other young women at the Playboy Mansion.”
After a judge reads them their instructions on Thursday morning, jurors will have to decide on the truth of Ms Huth’s allegations, and whether Cosby’s actions caused her emotional distress that reemerged in 2014 and lasted until 2018 when he went to prison, as Ms Huth’s lawsuit says he did.
Ms Huth’s case represents one of the last remaining legal claims against the 85-year-old comedian and actor once regarded as “America’s dad” after the removal of his Pennsylvania conviction and the settlement of many other lawsuits, negotiated by his insurer against his will.