Trials & Litigation

Judge cites Bill Cosby's 'pound cake' speech in decision to unseal court documents

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Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby performs at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California, in September 2014. Image from Randy Miramontez /

Corrected: Bill Cosby’s moralizing—including his famous “pound cake” speech—has spurred a judge to order release of court documents that excerpt an embarrassing deposition in which the comedian admitted securing Quaaludes with the intention of giving them to women with whom he hoped to have sex.

Ruling on a motion to unseal court documents in a civil sex-abuse suit, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno of Philadelphia said Cosby had narrowed the zone of privacy that protected him because of his posture as a public moralist. The Washington Post has a story on the opinion.

The Associated Press had sought to unseal the court records in the suit by a former Temple University employee, which was settled, the Associated Press and another story by the Washington Post. In the deposition, Cosby said he gave the Quaaludes to one unidentified woman, but not to the civil suit plaintiff. Cosby’s lawyers have said two women who have accused him of sexual misconduct knew they were getting Quaaludes from the entertainer.

Robreno’s decision (PDF) found that Cosby “has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education and crime.”

A footnote lists the “pound cake” speech as an example of Cosby’s public moralizing. According to the Post, Cosby gave the speech on the failures of black parents at an awards ceremony hosted by the NAACP in May 2004.

“In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on,” Cosby said. “In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye. And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had one and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.”

Cosby went on to say that he had questions for parents who cry when their son ends up in jail. “Where were you when he was 2? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you don’t know he had a pistol?” Cosby asked.

“I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else,” Cosby said. “And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.’ Not: ‘You’re going to get your butt kicked.’ No. ‘You’re going to embarrass your mother. You’re going to embarrass your family.’ ”

Robreno also noted that the allegations in the suit are already in the public domain, as are allegations of similar conduct by Cosby in other cases. Cosby’s public denials in which he questioned the veracity of his accusers have “further diminished his entitlement to the claim of privacy,” Robreno said.

Cosby’s lawyers had argued release of the deposition testimony would undermine the private settlement agreement in the case. The reliance is not justified, Robreno said, because Cosby’s lawyers had not presented the settlement agreement to the court and had not sought a permanent seal for the material.

“Because defendant did not seek the court’s imprimatur on his intent to keep the documents from ever seeing the light of day,” Robreno wrote, “his reliance that the discovery materials would remain out of the public eye was misplaced.”

Later in the week, lawyers for the civil suit plaintiff filed a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asking for the “the entire deposition and settlement agreement” to be publicly released, the Post reported. She says that Cosby has already violated the settlement’s confidentiality agreement by vilifying her in statements to the media.

Updated July 10 to clarify that the entire deposition has not been released and include subsequent coverage from the Washington Post.

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