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Both sides rest in Cosby extortion trial

Latest developments: July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 11:55 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (Reuter) -- The woman claiming to be Bill Cosby's illegitimate daughter is an extortionist driven by greed who fired "point-blank" at the actor's most valuable asset, a prosecutor charged Tuesday.

So said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Engelmayer during closing arguments in the trial of Autumn Jackson, who he said threatened to ruin Cosby's reputation "over and over again" and showed that she was "ready, willing and able" to take her story to the news media.

Jackson, 22, is charged with threatening to sell her story to a tabloid newspaper and ruin Cosby's reputation, unless the actor paid her $40 million. Two alleged accomplices, Jose Medina, 51, and Boris Sabas, 42, are co-defendants.

Closing arguments concluded Tuesday. The jury will hear instructions and begin deliberating when court reconvenes Wednesday. None of the three defendants, all of whom pleaded not guilty, took the stand during the trial.

During his closing argument, Jackson's attorney, Robert Baum, said his client was a "naive" and "petulant child" whose desperate cry for help and love was manipulated by Cosby to hide his adultery.

He said she was caught in the moral dilemma of either selling her life story to a tabloid or getting money from the man she believed to be her father.

"She did not possess any intent to extort," Baum said. "What Autumn Jackson really needed in January 1997 was love ... she needed guidance."

'They wanted to get rich quick'

Prosecutors introduced as evidence recorded telephone conversations and letters in which Jackson contacted Cosby's lawyer, his publisher, CBS and Cosby's television sponsors, and threatened to expose the actor as a deadbeat dad unless she received money.

They reminded the jury of taped conversations in which Jackson could be heard haggling over the amount of her demand, and of a letter allegedly faxed to CBS in which Jackson attacked Cosby's TV image as a perfect father.

Engelmayer noted that Jackson provided Cosby's lawyer and the former president of CBS with an unsigned contract from the Globe tabloid newspaper offering her $25,000 for her story.

Implicit in the message, he said, was "I'm one signature away from ruining your reputation."

"The defendants did not want to get money the old-fashioned way by working. They wanted to get rich quick," Engelmayer told the Manhattan federal jury.

But Baum said Cosby paid Jackson's family to keep his fatherhood a secret, and said the case was really a story of "betrayal, abandonment, deceit and manipulation."

Jackson's attorneys rested their case Monday after showing jurors a video of Cosby's first meeting with Jackson in 1991. It shows Cosby putting his arm around an adoring Jackson and encouraging her to become an honor student.

Extortion, not paternity, is the issue

U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones ruled earlier that Cosby's paternity was irrelevant to the case, and said the issue was whether the defendants committed extortion. Cosby admitted that he had sex once with Jackson's mother, Shawn Thompson Upshaw, but has denied being Jackson's father.

Cosby was in his 30s at the time of the encounter and said he did not tell his wife about the affair until about six years after it happened.

He testified that he had paid Upshaw about $100,000 over the years to help support Jackson before setting up a trust fund for Upshaw. He also admitted speaking to Jackson several times by phone and encouraging her to continue her schooling.

Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

 
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