DENVER (CBS4) – Two Colorado women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby are trying to change the state’s statute of limitations in rape cases. Right now, if a victim waits more than 10 years prosecutors can’t bring charges.
Beth Ferrier of Denver told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that she is one of more than 50 women who have been assaulted by Cosby. She says she had a consensual relationship with him in 1984 that she later broke off.
“He kept calling my ex-husband, my mother, my family and employer,” Ferrier said.
She says she agreed to meet him one last time and that’s when she says he put a drug in her coffee and sexually assaulted her.
“I woke up seven hours later … dumped in the back of my car in a dark alley at 3 a.m. with the trash. I have suffered the consequence of drinking that cappuccino and having that relationship with Mr. Cosby way too long,” Ferrier said.
Ferrier and Heidi Thomas of Castle Rock, who says she was also sexually assaulted by Cosby in the 1980s, are working with state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, to expand or eliminate Colorado’s statute of limitations.
“To safeguard and protect victims of this horrible, violent crime,” Fields said. “These women are not about getting retribution for what happened to them. It’s about paying it forward.”
“He (Cosby) prays that the statute of limitations never goes away for sexual assault because he, like many of these criminals, have been allowed to hide behind it for so long,” Ferrier said.
“The man is a predator, a camouflaged predator. He’s the catalyst. I think every massive movement has to have something big to kick it into gear,” Thomas said.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is among those supporting the change.
“I don’t want a single victim to be cut out of this process because we’re past one day, one month, one year, one decade something that’s written on paper,” Brauchler said. “We don’t put a statute of limitations on murder, which is the death of a body. In many ways, this is the death of somebody’s soul. Whereas in a murder a victim is unavailable for obvious reasons, in a sexual assault, a rape case, many times victims are unavailable to us for reasons that may not seem as obvious. It is very difficult for victims of rape to come forward as early and often as I think they should.”
But criminal defense attorneys argue defendants will be at a disadvantage.
“Your son was in college 25 years ago and there was allegation of sexual assault that happened 25 years ago; how are they supposed to investigate that?” Maureen Cain with the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar said. “So what we wanted to do is reach some kind of a balance, and that’s what the statute of limitation was designed to do.”
Brie Akins, the executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault insists those fears are unfounded.
“The reality is if the evidence isn’t there, the victim is not going to be able to do anything about it and the prosecutor isn’t going to be able to move a case forward. The cases that would be picked up under something like this are going to be very strong cases. There is going to be evidence,” Akins said. “It’s going to be a situation such as the Cosby case where one person comes forward and maybe they can’t do something but that starts other people thinking about it and coming forward as well. And so most likely they’re going to pick up somebody who is a serial rapist.”
“As long as we’re going to have publicly accountable, publicly elected prosecutors to exercise this discretion, I’m less concerned about eliminating the statute of limitations for these heinous crimes,” he said.
Ferrier, Thomas and another alleged Cosby victim, Helen Hayes of San Francisco, say they will continue to lobby for the legislation even though it won’t be retroactive.
“It has taken 50 years of allegations and finally there are enough that … it’s like a critical mass so that we have enough momentum that this could be the reason we finally get some laws changed,” Thomas said.
“Why support this legislation, why fight for this legislation? It’s not going to help you,” Boyd asked the alleged victims.
“What we will gain is the knowledge that we made a difference,” Thomas said.
Rhonda Fields plans to introduce legislation next year. She says she hasn’t decided whether to lengthen the statute of limitations or to eliminate it altogether. There is no statute of limitations in sexual assault cases involving children. This law would apply to those 18 years and older.