Metro

Bill Cosby thanks Supreme Court for declining to take up woman’s defamation lawsuit

Bill Cosby left his sentencing hearing in Norristown, Pa., in 2018.
Matt Slocum/Associated Press/File
Bill Cosby left his sentencing hearing in Norristown, Pa., in 2018.

Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, currently serving prison time for sexual assault, on Tuesday thanked the Supreme Court for declining to take up a lawsuit originally filed in Massachusetts by a performer who alleged the entertainer had raped her and then defamed her decades later.

“I am grateful to the United States Supreme Court and to the federal courts in Massachusetts for upholding the law in this case,” said a statement attributed to Cosby, 81, and posted to his official Twitter account maintained by his spokesman. “I thank each of the Justices for their ruling, which gives me renewed hope that the fair and impartial courts in this country will go on to deliver justice.”

Cosby continued, “This is the very reason, why I, [Bill Cosby] have No Remorse because I am Innocent and will continue to channel the strength of the Great Political Prisoners. Finally the truth is being allowed, to be heard and read by the public.”

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Cosby, who is serving a three- to 10-year sentence in a Pennsylvania prison for sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, issued the statement after the high court declined a request, known as a writ of certiorari, to take up the suit brought by Kathrine Mae McKee.

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The high court accepts a small number of the many certiorari requests it receives each year to review decisions issued by lower courts.

McKee had alleged in her defamation lawsuit, first filed in federal court in Massachusetts in 2015, that Cosby raped her in 1974 in Detroit and defamed her as a liar through his lawyer, when she went public with her claims.

A US District Court judge threw out the suit in February 2017, and an appellate court later upheld the dismissal, in part because McKee was deemed a public figure in the context of her allegations.

Public figures, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in an opinion Tuesday when the Supreme Court declined McKee’s request, “are barred from recovering damages for defamation unless they can show that the statement at issue was made with “ ‘actual malice’ — that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.’ ”

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Thomas called in the opinion for overturning a 55-year-old landmark ruling that makes it hard for public figures to win libel suits.

In declining to take up McKee’s case, the Supreme Court took no position on the validity of McKee’s rape allegation, which Cosby has denied. The Globe does not name alleged victims of sexual assault unless they choose to go public, as McKee has done.

Dozens of women have come forward in recent years to accuse Cosby of sexual assault, and he still faces civil litigation in Massachusetts from women lodging similar accusations as McKee. Cosby has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. He and his wife own a home in Shelburne Falls.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.