Gloria Allred wins Cobb Energy Bill Cosby concert protest case

Attorney Gloria Allred came to Atlanta Thursday to declare victory in a free speech case regarding a Bill Cosby protest at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Attorney Gloria Allred came to Atlanta Thursday to declare victory in a free speech case regarding a Bill Cosby protest at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Gloria Allred, the well-known attorney representing 33 women who have accused Bill Cosby of various forms of sexual misconduct, won a First Amendment lawsuit after being blacklisted from Cosby’s stand-up comedy show last year at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, which oversees Cobb Energy, agreed to pay her $40,000 to cover damages and attorney’s fees and promised not to block future patrons from entering the publicly operated event hall with a valid ticket.

I attended the concert May 2, 2015 at Cobb Energy, aware this might very well be his final one ever. (He has not had another concert date since.) Cosby had been beset by hecklers and protesters at previous appearances since allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting women hit the news in the fall of 2014.

Read my coverage from that day. 

As the May 2 concert approached, Cosby’s people compiled 77 to 80 names from social media of people they thought might disrupt the event, according to Allred’s attorney Cary Wiggins. At the door, every customer with a ticket was asked to show ID. As a result, about a dozen protesters – including Allred – were blocked from entering despite having legitimate tickets to enter.

Allred, who said she had no intention of disrupting the event, said she wanted to see the concert to “gain insight that would help me in the representation of the many alleged victims of Bill Cosby whom I represented.” She was directed to a side entrance by a police officer and informed she could not enter the premises and would be asked to leave or be considered in “criminal trespass.” She left without seeing the concert.

Gloria Allred on May 2, 2015 outside Bill Cosby's show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with fellow protest Bonnie Upton. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

Gloria Allred on May 2, 2015 outside Bill Cosby’s show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with fellow protest Bonnie Upton. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/ rho@ajc.com

In November of 2015, she filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia alleging her First Amendment rights and due process rights were violated.

“With this settlement,” Allred said at a press conference Thursday at White Oak Kitchen in downtown Atlanta, “we have achieved a victory not only for me but also for other protesters who wish to exercise their right of free speech about other performers in the future.”

According to the settlement, “the Authority will not delegate to a performer the right to ban people from attending public performances at the Centre.”

At the concert itself, which was not at full capacity, at least 11 employees were lined up on the sides of the hall watching the audience for hecklers.

Ashley Leonard from Wilmington, N.C. managed to evade the “do not enter” list because she used her maiden name on social media. While Cosby was telling a childhood story about his mom threatening to beat him, Leonard stood up to interrupt him and yelled, “She didn’t beat out of you how you treat women!”

The crowd quickly drowned her out with boos. Cosby stood up and simmered down the boos as she was escorted away: “Stop it! This is our show. It will be over soon.”

The only other heckler was an intern at Rock 100.5 who shouted something incoherent. He too was quietly led out of the building.

The settlement was announced two days after Cosby appeared in a Pennsylvania courtroom for a  felony sexual assault case related to claims he doped and groped accuser Andrea Constand in 2004.

His attorneys on Tuesday accused Allred of racial prejudice in pursuing Cosby so aggressively.

“The time has come to shine a spotlight on the trampling of Mr. Cosby’s civil rights,” the statement said in part. “Gloria Allred apparently loves the media spotlight more than she cares about justice. She calls herself a civil rights attorney, but her campaign against Mr. Cosby builds on racial bias and prejudice that can pollute the court of public opinion.”

At the press conference, Allred scoffed at this notion. “With his latest pathetic attack on me, he unsuccessfully tries to portray himself as a victim rather than as a defendant in a criminal case accused of aggravated indecent sexual assault,” she said.

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Friday, September 9, 2016

 


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