Appeals court sides with Bill Cosby, upholds dismissal of defamation lawsuit

Bill Cosby.
Bill Cosby. Matt Rourke/Associated Press/File

A federal appeals court in Boston on Wednesday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by one of the many women who have accused embattled entertainer Bill Cosby of rape and defamation.

The 20-page unanimous ruling, authored by Judge Sandra L. Lynch, is another legal setback for the accuser, Kathrine Mae McKee. She initially sued Cosby in US District Court in Springfield in 2015, alleging his former lawyer, Martin Singer, defamed her as a liar after she told the New York Daily News that the comedian raped her in 1974.

The lower court dismissed McKee’s claim in February.

In affirming the ruling, Lynch wrote that Singer’s statements, in a letter to the Daily News that was leaked to other media outlets, on behalf of Cosby did not rise to the level of defamation.


The appellate judges rejected several of McKee’s legal arguments, including her assertion that Singer defamed her by including quotes from media articles that were taken out of context.

“The Letter provides links to the articles from which these quotes are drawn, enabling readers to examine the sources for themselves and consider the comments in context,” Lynch wrote. “These statements are not actionable.”

In one excerpt of the letter, Lynch wrote, Singer quoted McKee telling another media outlet that she “had to do a lot of lying” as a Las Vegas showgirl in the 1960s, while omitting the fact that she referred to concealing her mixed-race ethnicity to get work.

“Singer admittedly does not include this important contextual information in the Letter itself, but the quotations, themselves accurate, are immediately followed by a hyperlink to the source article, allowing readers to put McKee’s statements into proper context,” Lynch wrote.

A lawyer for Cosby, Alan A. Greenberg, hailed Lynch’s ruling Thursday.

“We are pleased with the Court of Appeals’ well-reasoned decision confirming that there was no defamation,” Greenberg wrote in an e-mail.


F. William Salo, a lawyer for McKee, said he will file paperwork seeking a re-hearing before the full panel of judges on the First Circuit and, if that fails, he could ask the Supreme Court to take up the case.

“They haven’t even let her have her day in court,” Salo said. “She’s never been able to tell her story.”

Cosby, 80, is by no means in the clear.

Federal lawsuits from several other women who made similar allegations remain pending in Springfield, part of a wave of accusers who have come forward in recent years to allege that Cosby drugged, raped, and assaulted them.

He has denied the allegations, and just one case has resulted in criminal charges.

A Pennsylvania jury in June failed to reach a verdict on charges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in that state in 2004. A retrial in the criminal case is slated to begin next year.

Wednesday’s appellate ruling in McKee’s lawsuit comes as Hollywood continues to reel from a massive scandal involving Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film mogul who stands accused of serial sexual harassment and rape.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.