Defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby dismissed
Ellie Kaufman, CNN | 2/17/2017, 11:49 a.m.
(CNN) -- A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby by Katherine McKee, an actress who claimed he raped her in 1974, according to court documents.
McKee's sexual assault allegation first appeared in a New York Daily News article in 2014. After the article was published, Cosby wrote a letter to the paper denying the claim. His lawyer asked the paper to retract the article, according to Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt.
McKee sued the comedian for defamation, seeking monetary and punitive damages, according to court documents. McKee filed the lawsuit at the end of 2015, a year after the article's publication.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Mastroianni ruled that McKee had not proven that Cosby had defamed her simply by denying her claims.
"An accused person cannot be foreclosed, during their responsive navigation, from considering the issuance of a simple and unequivocal denial -- free from overall defamatory triggers or contextual themes," he wrote in the decision. "Such a situation would be inconsistent with basic First Amendment principles."
Cosby's team agreed with the court's ruling.
"This is another in a line of recent developments vindicating Mr. Cosby's right to defend himself in the face of an onslaught of unverified accusations," Wyatt told CNN in a statement.
McKee told CNN on Thursday she is "very disgusted" with the court's ruling. She had no further comment.
Cosby has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 women, according to CNN's previous reporting. Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University, was the first woman to publicly accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct, in 2004.
In her lawsuit, McKee claimed that Cosby raped her when they met at his hotel room in Detroit, according to court documents. McKee appeared on "The Bill Cosby Show" in 1971 and believed she was friends with Cosby, the court documents state.
When they met at the hotel, McKee says that she "was immediately set upon and physically attacked by Cosby," according to court documents.
McKee told a New York Daily News reporter about the alleged incident in 2014, almost 40 years after it occurred.
After the article was published, Cosby wrote a letter to the Daily News stating that McKee's accusations were false. The lawsuit claimed that this letter was intended to defame McKee to both readers of the Daily News and in the world at large, according to court documents.
"This is the correct outcome," Angela C. Agrusa, Cosby's lead civil attorney, told CNN in a statement. "It is paramount in a free society to be able to insist on one's innocence in the face of serious public accusations, and today's ruling reinforces that fundamental right."
This is the second of Cosby's cases to be dismissed. In January 2016, a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a civil defamation lawsuit against Cosby brought by Renita Hill. Hill publicly accused Cosby of rape back in 2014, and she sued him for defamation in October 2015.
Cosby is set to stand for trial on June 5 in the Constand case in Pennsylvania. He faces three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault.
CNN's Sonia Moghe and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.