A federal jury on Friday convicted a 22-year-old woman of trying to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby, rejecting her argument that she was a waif who had been spurned by a famous father.
Two companions in the scheme also were found guilty.
Autumn Jackson, who claimed she was Cosby’s illegitimate daughter, buried her head in her hands and sobbed when the jury of seven men and five women declared her guilty after three days of deliberations.
“How could they?” she asked her lawyer Robert Baum after the verdict.
Jurors who spoke with reporters after the verdict gave the answer.
“Nobody has the right to extort money from their father,” said juror Deborah Hyman.
David Henkel said his fellow jurors were swayed by the prosecution’s argument that Jackson and her co-conspirators continued to threaten to sell her story to a supermarket tabloid unless they were paid millions after being warned by Cosby’s lawyer they were committing a crime.
“The fact that they still carried it out was a convincing proof,” Henkel said.
Jack Schmitt, the entertainer’s lawyer, issued a statement saying “the Cosbys appreciate the efforts of the prosecutors who brought this case and the efforts of the jurors who rendered a just verdict.”
In addition to the extortion charge, Jackson was found guilty of conspiracy and crossing state lines to commit a crime. She could face up to 12 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 22.
Jose Medina, 51, a sometimes occupational therapist and would-be screenwriter from Bethesda, Ohio, was convicted on the same charges.
A third defendant, Boris Sabas, 42, of Los Angeles was found guilty of conspiracy and crossing state lines but exonerated on the extortion charge.
In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewis J. Liman said Jackson “wasn’t asking for hugs and kisses or love. She was asking for cold, hard cash.”
Baum, Jackson’s court-appointed lawyer, sought to show her as a somewhat naive young woman who was spurned by Cosby over the years after receiving sporadic pep talks from the actor.
Baum quoted from Cosby’s best-selling book, “Fatherhood,” that the role of a father is to “be there.” It was an effort to show the comedian avoided his obligations to Jackson while paying her mother to stay silent about their affair two decades ago.
Taking the stand last week, a somber Cosby admitted to a Las Vegas tryst in the mid-1970s with Jackson’s mother, Shawn Upshaw. He acknowledged providing more than $100,000 in regular financial support to the mother and daughter ever since.
But Cosby said he does not believe the young woman is his daughter. He refused to take a blood test.
Baum said that Jackson merely engaged in what she believed were negotiations with a parent and charged that Cosby had driven the young woman to desperation by promising love and then ignoring her.
Baum said he will appeal and may bring a paternity suit against Cosby.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones ruled that whether Jackson is actually Cosby’s daughter is not pertinent. But she allowed the defense to argue that Jackson was raised to believe the comedian is one of her parents.
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