Bay Area Bill Cosby Accusers Speak Out, Push For Change

Some accusers said drugs should always be classified as weapons in rape cases.

Janice Baker Kinney of Petaluma first met comedian Bill Cosby when she was bartending at a Harrah’s hotel in Reno. She says the famous funnyman invited her and a friend to a party at his rented house.

When the two women arrived, they discovered no one else was there aside from Cosby. It was there that Kinney says Cosby gave her drugs and sexually assaulted her.

Kinney is just one of 29 women who appeared in a Friday Dateline special to discuss allegations against Cosby. Though none of the women knew each other before they first came forward, all of them told similar stories about sexual abuse at the hands of one of America’s favorite TV dads.

Now, the women are fighting to change the way rape crimes involving drugs are classified under state laws, which could effect some statute of limitations that prohobit a majority of Cosby's alleged victims from bringing suit.

“Under California law, if the allegation is aggravated sexual assault, meaning a weapon is used, there is no statute of limitations,” said Christian Picone, a Bay Area attorney. “So the prosecutor or district attorney could bring a charge regardless of how many years have passed.”

Reclassifying drugs as weapons in all rape cases would allow for some victims to get a second change at justice, the women have argued.

“There was nothing in our lexicon about date rape or acquaintance rape,” said Patricia Leary Steuer of Tiburon, on why charges against Cosby were not made at the time of the alleged assault. “Rape was something that happened in an ally at knifepoint or gun point.”

Steuer says Cosby sexually assaulted her in 1978 and again 1980. She says drugs were involved in both of the alleged attacks.

Through his lawyers, Cosby has repeatedly denied claims that he had sex with women without their consent, though he has mostly stayed mum on the issue.

But the women say they are not giving up, and a few of them have had legal triumphs last Friday.

In California, one of the cases involving a woman who was a minor at the time of the alleged assault went forward, with famed lawyer Gloria Allred deposing Cosby for several hours.

And then, in Massachusetts, a federal judge refused to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by three women who say Cosby’s representatives have tried to portray them as liars.

“It’s all validation,” Kinney said. “Every step forward is all validation.”

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