Flanked by three women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, attorney Gloria Allred challenged the performer Wednesday to put $100 million in a fund for his accusers and let a panel of retired judges determine the truth about the claims.
Allred made the proposal at a news conference at her Los Angeles law office, where she said it was too late for most of the women who recently came forward to sue because the alleged incidents were from decades ago.
The attorney called on Cosby to either set aside the money or agree to waive the statute of limitations as a legal defense, which would allow the women to pursue lawsuits against him.
"Justice demands accountability," Allred said. "We challenge Mr. Cosby to end this nightmare.... We look forward to his response."
Allred said more than 20 women have come forward making allegations of sexual assault against the comedian. Many of them, she said, have contacted her.
The attorney said she was offering her two proposals as possible solutions to "this public dilemma and a way to determine if Bill Cosby is a saint or a sexual predator."
"If Mr. Cosby believes all the women are being untruthful, then this is his opportunity to prove it. What could be fairer than that?" Allred said.
The three women appearing alongside Allred each alleged that Cosby attacked them. Beth Ferrier said she had an affair with Cosby after meeting him in mid-1980s. She ended the affair and later met him at a club in Denver where he gave her a cappuccino, she said. After taking the drink, she lost consciousness and woke up in her car with her clothes a mess and her bra undone, she said.
"I believed Mr. Cosby drugged me to sexually assault me," she said.
Ferrier said she told the National Enquirer in 2005, but the tabloid did not run her story, instead choosing to run an interview with the performer. The interview came as another woman was suing Cosby.
Helen Hayes alleged that Cosby grabbed her breasts at a restaurant in the summer of 1973.
A third woman, identified only by a first name, Chelan, told reporters she met Cosby in Las Vegas in 1986 when she was 17 and he gave her a blue pill he described as an antihistamine as well as two shots of amaretto to help with a cold she was suffering.
The woman said she found that she couldn't move or say anything and that he began sexually assaulting her before she blacked out. She said she awoke hours later to hear Cosby clapping his hands and saying, "Daddy says wake up." He gave her $1,500 to buy something nice for her and her grandmother, she told reporters at the news conference.
The allegations came a day after a woman filed a lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court alleging Cosby sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15.
Judy Huth's lawsuit appears to be the first filed in connection with a recent wave of sexual assault accusations against the comedian. Calls to her attorney, Marc Strecker, and Cosby's attorney, Martin D. Singer, were not immediately returned.
In the wake of the allegations, some Cosby projects have been suspended, on-stage appearances canceled, and reruns of his much-revered "The Cosby Show" pulled from the air. He also resigned from the board of trustees of his alma mater, Temple University.
Cosby has generally declined to discuss the recent allegations. In a statement last week, his attorney described them as "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories" and said lawsuits "are filed against people in the public eye every day."
"There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted."
Under California law, people accused of the most serious sexual assaults involving minor victims can be criminally charged only if the crimes occurred in 1988 or later.
Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, including model Janice Dickinson. Many of the women said the assaults occurred decades ago.
The first allegations emerged when a Temple University staffer sued the comedian, saying he drugged and groped her during a 2004 visit to his Philadelphia home. During that case, 13 other women came forward with similar stories, according to published reports. But the woman's attorney settled the case out of court in 2006.
The accusations gained new momentum in October, when a comedian made fun of Cosby's fatherly image in light of the stories of sexual assault. Other women, including Dickinson, then went public with their own allegations against Cosby.