NY Judge Rejects Cosby’s Request To Get Journalists’ Notes

A judge on Tuesday rejected what he called Bill Cosby’s “fishing expedition” to get journalists’ notes, film and audio to fight a defamation lawsuit filed against him by seven women.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan ruled against the 78-year-old comedian, finding his request for notes, unedited scripts, video and audio from interviews that New York Magazine conducted with six women bordered on the frivolous.

Photo: Mel Evans/AP Photo, file
Arrives for a court appearance in Norristown, Pa.

The interviews came as the magazine was preparing a July 2015 award-winning piece titled “I’m No Longer Afraid.” The article featured 35 women who described being sexually assaulted over the years by Cosby, who denies the allegations. The comic, who became known as “America’s Dad” with his work on “The Cosby Show,” has been married to his wife, Camille, for more than 50 years.

Cosby’s lawyers were planning to use the material to find inconsistencies in statements by six of seven women who filed a defamation lawsuit against him in Boston. The women claim Cosby tainted their reputations when he allowed his representatives to brand them as liars after they went public with their allegations.

Gardephe said the arguments by Cosby’s lawyers were “wildly inconsistent with the law in my judgment” and acted as if the New York Shield Law protecting journalists did not exist.

“The subpoena is, in my judgment, a fishing expedition,” the judge said. “Cosby has no notion, really, whether anything is in the files of New York Magazine that might be useful in this litigation.”

Cosby’s lawyer, Marshall Searcy, had argued that the materials sought from the magazine went to the central issue of whether the women were telling the truth.

He said video would help Cosby’s lawyers ascertain whether the women changed their stories or were prompted by questions to answer a certain way.

“These recordings are singular and unique, and we don’t have access to them,” Searcy said.

Gardephe was critical of the request, saying Cosby’s lawyers sought access to media materials without trying to question the women, ignoring a “quite demanding” standard of law protecting journalists.

If media materials were easily obtained, lawyers would routinely demand them and it “would become standard operating procedure,” Gardephe said. He added: “That, we cannot permit.”

“Our society made the decision long ago … that that was not the standard our society was going to adopt,” he said.

Searcy declined to comment afterward.

David Korzenik, an attorney for New York Magazine, said Gardephe got it right.

“I never felt this was a close call,” he said.

There were other developments Tuesday in cases across the country involving Cosby.

In Pennsylvania, a judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 24 in a criminal sex assault case around a 2004 encounter at Cosby’s suburban Philadelphia home. The move came a day after an appeals court rejected Cosby’s attempt to throw out the case because of what he called a decade-old deal not to prosecute him.

And in Los Angeles, a judge ruled that a sexual battery lawsuit filed by a woman who accuses Cosby of sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion when she was underage can proceed.