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Cosby Testifies About Secret Payments

Court: Comedian says he gave $100,000 to a woman who claims to be his daughter and her mother.

July 16, 1997|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Bill Cosby testified Tuesday that he made secret payments over the years to the woman who claims to be his daughter and who prosecutors charge tried to extort $40 million from him.

The flow of money stopped only after Autumn Jackson approached CBS and his sponsors, threatening to tell a tabloid newspaper she was his illegitimate child, Cosby said.

"It is the end of what I am paying for . . . I feel it is irreversible," Cosby testified, recalling his feelings as he instructed his lawyer to tell Shawn Upshaw, Jackson's mother, of the demand.

Cosby said he had a brief affair with Upshaw in Las Vegas in the early 1970s, and over the years, he gave her a total of $100,000.

"Who instituted the affair?" Cosby was asked.

"I did," he replied.

Cosby said he sometimes gave Jackson pep talks over the phone, encouraging her to stay in school and better herself, but he never told her she could call him father.

"It was rah, rah, rah, sis boom bah," Cosby said. "I tried not to make it rough and hard. I would say call me. I said one day, 'I am not your father. I will be for you a father figure.' "

Cosby said he once backed out of a paternity blood test he proposed conducting with Jackson and her mother in Chicago, fearing a "bounty hunter" would leak the news of the test to the tabloids.

As the perfect world of television's Huxtable family and the far-from-perfect world of Jackson and her co-defendants clashed in federal court, Jackson's lawyer concluded his cross-examination with a question.

Robert Baum asked Cosby if he recalled saying in his best-selling book "Fatherhood" that the commitment of having children can't be part time.

"Yes," Cosby replied.

Jackson and co-defendant Jose Medina, 51, of Bethesda, Ohio, were arrested in the Manhattan offices of Cosby's lawyer in January after traveling from Los Angeles to collect $24 million from the comedian in exchange for not selling their story to the Globe, a tabloid newspaper. A third defendant, Boris Sabas, 42, of Los Angeles, was later arrested and charged with participating in the alleged plot. Defense lawyers contend Jackson wasn't committing a crime, merely conducting negotiations with the representative of someone she believed was her father.

Cosby testified he met Upshaw in the early 1970s at a hotel in Los Angeles, asked her to dance and asked for her telephone number. He said he subsequently called her and invited her to Las Vegas.

Cosby said he was married when the tryst occurred, and he told his wife, Camille, about it 17 years ago.

He said he met Upshaw again sometime later in the living room of a hotel in Las Vegas, and she showed him a picture of a child.

"This is your daughter, Autumn," he said Upshaw told him.

"I said, 'That's not my daughter,' and that was it," Cosby added.

The actor said Upshaw told him at the time that she had no intention of wanting to embarrass Cosby's wife, but she later began asking to borrow money.

"And then would come the part about Autumn being my daughter, and that she hadn't told anyone," Cosby said.

He estimated over the years he had paid Upshaw about $100,000 out of concern "she would go public with the fact that I had sex with her."

"She never paid me back," Cosby added.

The comedian--America's beloved TV dad--said the payments were disguised by having employees use their own names on cashier's checks or traveler's checks after he supplied the funds.

Cosby said he never put his name on a check out of fear that it could be used against him, but he promised to pay for the college education of all of Upshaw's children.

Payments to Jackson were made not through Cosby's foundation, which over the years has provided scholarships to 300 youngsters. They were sent through his lawyer, the comedian said.

"She was special because of the situation with her mother," he said.

Cosby said he did not want the board of the foundation to find out who Upshaw was and have her calling the board asking for money.

When Jackson was 16 or 17, she came to New York with her grandmother and visited Cosby on the set of his program.

"I introduced her to all the kids on the show," Cosby said. "I talked to her about an education. I talked to her about conditions at home, not in a negatory way."

During the tour, Cosby said, he introduced the teenager as Autumn Jackson, and she referred to him as "Mr. Cosby."

"Did you say anything to her about being her father?" Assistant U.S. Atty. Lewis J. Liman asked.

"No," Cosby said.

"Did you ever see Autumn Jackson again?"

"No," Cosby replied.

But they spoke on the phone. When Jackson entered college in Florida, Cosby said he began speaking to her frequently, trying to help her succeed, just as he does for other students he helps financially.

Last December, he received a telephone message that an Autumn Cosby had called.

"That is not her last name. As far as I am concerned, she's making some kind of threat," he testified.

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