In closing arguments at the trial of Autumn Jackson, the 22-year-old woman charged with trying to extort money from Bill Cosby, prosecutors and defense lawyers clashed over whether Jackson’s actions constituted extortion - and who was the real victim in the case.
Jackson, accused of demanding $40 million to keep her from selling a story asserting she is Cosby’s out-of-wedlock daughter, was motivated by “greed, not need,” federal prosecutors said.
They added that Cosby was victimized by his own generosity toward Jackson and her mother.
The defense lawyer for Jackson, Robert M. Baum, began his remarks to the jury quoting from “Fatherhood,” Cosby’s best-selling 1986 book, in which Cosby wrote that a father’s “role is simply to be there.”
Cosby had avoided his parental obligations, the lawyer said, focusing on the payments that Cosby has acknowledged making to Jackson’s mother over the years to conceal their earlier affair.
Judge Barbara S. Jones of U.S. District Court in Manhattan said she would instruct the jury this morning and allow the jurors to begin deliberations later Thursday.
A federal prosecutor, Paul A. Engelmayer, depicted Jackson as cold and calculating and said Cosby “did not forfeit his right to be free from threats” because of his celebrity.
For the first time since the trial started, the prosecution squarely addressed a theme that Jackson’s lawyers had raised throughout the trial: her belief that she was the actor’s daughter. In a kind of overarching rationale for her actions, the defense has said Jackson was engaged in a lawful negotiation with her father.
“Even if Bill Cosby were Autumn Jackson’s father, that still would not give Autumn Jackson the right to extort him,” Engelmayer told the jury. He said one may not murder or steal from one’s father, and there is “no ‘father exception’ to the law of extortion.”
Jackson’s lawyer, Baum, said her behavior was understandable, given what she had been told about her paternity and what she understood the actor to have done for her and her mother, Shawn Upshaw.
Baum said Jackson was homeless and destitute last winter when she turned to the man she knew as her father and who had been supporting her family. Describing Jackson’s dilemma concerning whether to sell her story to a tabloid if Cosby did not respond to her demands, Baum said that “she was continually balancing survival versus the love of her father.”
But prosecutors tried to emphasize that greed was the basis for the defendant’s actions last winter.
Citing testimony that Jackson and her fiance were seeking to buy a $1.25 million estate north of Los Angeles late last year, Engelmayer said, “This is the motive in this case.”
The government also tried to dispel the notion that Jackson was involved in a legitimate negotiation or that love was involved. “These are negotiations, but they amount to negotiations at the point of a gun,” Engelmayer told the jury.
Another prosecutor, Lewis J. Liman, said tartly: “She wasn’t asking for hugs and kisses or love. She was asking for cold, hard cash.”
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