Woman guilty in Cosby extortion caseJuly 25, 1997
Web posted at: 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The woman claiming to be Bill Cosby's illegitimate daughter was convicted Friday of extortion for threatening to sell her story to a tabloid newspaper unless the entertainer paid her $40 million.
Autumn Jackson's two co-defendants also were found guilty by the seven-man, five-woman federal jury.
Jackson, 22, Jose Medina, 51, and Boris Sabas, 42, could be sentenced to 12 years in prison on their convictions for conspiracy, extortion and violating the interstate travel act, which prohibits travel between states to commit a crime.
Jackson's boyfriend, Antonay Williams, 26, earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aiding and abetting in extortion.
The jury began deliberations Wednesday morning, after 90 minutes of instruction from U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones. She repeated her earlier ruling that the question of whether actually is Jackson's father was irrelevant.
Cosby admits affair, denies fatherhood
Cosby testified to having sex once in 1974 with Jackson's mother, Shawn Thompson Upshaw, and acknowledged paying Upshaw $750 a week, or about $40,000 a year, before setting up a trust fund for her.
He also has said he paid for Jackson's schooling, as he has for many other students.
Cosby insists he is not Jackson's father but has never taken a paternity test. He testified he was going to once, but changed his mind fearing the test would become publicized and his reputation would be ruined.
Cosby was in his 30s at the time of the 1974 encounter and said he did not tell his wife about the affair until several years after it happened.
Jackson's attorneys rested their case on Monday after showing jurors a video of Jackson's first face-to-face meeting with the entertainer, which occurred backstage after a taping of "The Cosby Show" in 1991.
The video shows Cosby putting his arm around an adoring Jackson and encouraging her to become an honor student.
Cosby said he had spoken a number of times with Jackson and tried to encourage her to continue her schooling.
Trial's closing arguments
Jackson was arrested January 18 in New York City after she and Medina signed an agreement with Cosby's lawyers for $24 million, promising not to go public with her claim that she is Cosby's out-of-wedlock daughter.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Engelmayer said Jackson had threatened to ruin Cosby's reputation by taking her story to the news media.
Engelmayer described Jackson as an "extortionist driven by greed who wanted an express ride to easy money."
Even if Cosby is Jackson's father, she broke the law by demanding cash to spare him embarrassment, prosecutors charged.
But Rob Baum, Jackson's attorney, claimed his client was the real victim. He said Jackson "lived in a box for 22 years" and was "kept hidden from love and affection required of a parent."
Negotiation or threat?
Prosecutors had 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.
As part of the scheme, Jackson provided Cosby's lawyer with an unsigned contract with the Globe supermarket tabloid in which she would sell her story for $25,000.
Englemayer said the fact that the contract was unsigned made it a threat with the message, "I'm one signature away from ruining your reputation."
But Jackson's lawyer said she was only trying to get the financial settlement that was rightly hers after Cosby cut her off during lawful negotiations.
Baum described Jackson as "naive" and a "petulant child" who desperately needed money to survive.
She was caught in a moral dilemma of selling her life story to a tabloid or getting money from the man she believed to be her father, the lawyer said.
"She did not possess any intent to extort," Baum said. "What Autumn Jackson really needed in January 1997 was love ... she needed guidance."
He alleged that Cosby paid Jackson's family to keep his fatherhood secret and said the case was really a story of "betrayal, abandonment, deceit and manipulation."
Attorneys for co-defendants Medina and Sabas also said in their closing arguments that their clients did nothing wrong. None of the three defendants took the stand in their own defense during the trial.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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