Bill Cosby, testifying in the extortion trial of the woman who says she is his illegitimate daughter, denied her assertion but admitted paying her mother $100,000 over the last 20 years to keep quiet about a brief affair they had in the mid-1970s.
The tale that triggered the trial sounds like the sort of cautionary lecture that Cosby’s TV character, Dr. Clifford Huxtable, might have delivered to his son, Theo, on the hit series, “The Cosby Show.”
The woman on trial, Autumn Jackson, stands accused of blackmailing Cosby, threatening to take her story to a supermarket tabloid - which would taint his reputation as “America’s favorite dad” - unless he paid her $40 million. She later reduced the demand to $24 million.
Jackson’s lawyer is arguing she had no intent of extortion. Rather, she honestly believed - her mother had long told her - that Cosby was her father, and she was only trying to negotiate a fair share of her family claim after decades of neglect.
The judge has ruled it is immaterial whether or not Cosby is really Jackson’s father. Jackson can be found guilty of extortion, regardless of any blood tie.
Cosby has declined to take a blood test. However, on the stand Tuesday he revealed that he once agreed to go to a clinic in Chicago with Jackson and her mother, Shawn Upshaw. However, he said, he backed out at the last minute, fearful that some “bounty-hunter,” as he put it, would tell a tabloid that “Bill Cosby just came in here to have his blood drawn with two women.”
He also said he had told his wife, Camille, about the affair 17 years ago.
For most of his two hours of testimony, Cosby avoided eye contact with Jackson.
He said he met Upshaw in the mid-1970s in Los Angeles. They had sex once, he said, in a Las Vegas hotel.
Some time later, she showed him a picture of a child and said, “This is your daughter, Autumn.”
“I said,” Cosby testified, “‘That’s not my daughter,’ and that was it.”
Over the next few years, Upshaw kept calling him to ask for money, usually adding she didn’t want to hurt Cosby’s wife by revealing their affair.
“The yelling and the crying, between the two of us, got to the point where I no longer wanted to yell over the telephone,” Cosby testified. So finally he set up a trust fund to pay Upshaw $750 a week. He also promised to pay for the college education of all three of Upshaw’s children.
When Autumn went to college in Florida, Cosby said he started speaking with her by phone fairly often.
However, he said he told her, “I am not your father. I will be for you a father figure” - emphasizing and repeating the word “figure” - “but I am not your father.”
Cosby said matters came to a head last December when she left three messages on his answering machine, the first two identifying herself as “Autumn Jackson,” the last as “Autumn Cosby.”
When he called back, furious, she told him she was homeless and in debt. He promised to send her $3,000. Soon after, he learned she was sending letters to executives at CBS and several sponsors. Cosby said this prompted him to go to the FBI.
Finally, on Jan. 17, the day Cosby’s son, Ennis, was found shot to death on a Los Angeles highway, his lawyer told him about her demand for $40 million. She and her co-defendant, Jose Medina, were arrested two days later, allegedly while signing what they thought was a contract for the hush-money.