A California woman is suing Bill Cosby in federal court, alleging that he raped and imprisoned her in 1990 in Atlantic City.
Lili Bernard, who filed the suit Thursday, is one of 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct. Many of the women, including Bernard, could not file criminal charges against Cosby because of the statute of limitations.
In 2019, however, New Jersey made amendments to the statute, extending reporting timelines for victims. The legislature also created a two-year window starting Dec. 1, 2019, for victims of sexual assault to come forward with civil suits.
Bernard’s lawsuit claims Cosby persuaded her to travel from New York to Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal on the day of the assault under the guise of mentorship.
The comedian previously established himself as a mentor to Bernard after meeting her on the set of The Cosby Show, according to court filings. Cosby allegedly spent several weeks helping Bernard with theatrical exercises, suggesting she could get a speaking part on the show if she followed his advice.
Bernard claims on the night of her assault, Cosby gave her a nonalcoholic drink, which caused her to become dizzy, made her feel weak, and prompted her to vomit before losing consciousness.
According to the suit, Bernard woke up to Cosby undressing her and he ignored her when she told him “no.” Bernard alleges Cosby raped her as she went in and out of consciousness. The following morning Cosby dressed Bernard, according to the suit, and gave her money before escorting her to a car that took her back to New York.
Cosby threatened to “erase” Bernard if she reported the incident to authorities, the suit claims.
The alleged assault and battery left Bernard experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, inability to sleep, depression and other injuries, she says.
She is seeking $125 million in punitive damages.
Bernard had previously detailed the incident alleged in her lawsuit to Atlantic City police in 2015. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office ended its investigation that July because the time since the incident exceeded the state’s statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations barred prosecution in the majority of the criminal cases that date back decades.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s 2018 sexual-assault conviction in June. The decision was based not on the evidence presented at trial but instead on how prosecutors obtained Cosby’s incriminating testimony in the Andrea Constand case — former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. told Cosby he would never be charged for those accusations.
Bernard said Cosby’s release from prison prompted her filing.
“When Bill Cosby was released, it retraumatized me, it terrified me. I was really horrified for any woman or girl that would come into contact with him,” Bernard said. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court let a predator back on the streets.”
New Jersey’s two-year window to file sexual-assault lawsuits that would otherwise be considered too old to pursue closes next month.
In a statement Thursday, Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesperson, took issue with the 30-year-old accusations.
“Mr. Cosby continues to maintain steadfast in his innocence and will vigorously fight ANY alleged allegations waged against him and is willing and able to take this fight to the highest court in these United States of America,” read a statement from Cosby’s spokesperson.
Bernard’s legal team was not immediately available for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.