When a spokesman for Bill Cosby announced the once-beloved TV icon planned to hosting a series of seminars across the country to educate others on how to avoid being accused of sexual assault, more than a few people got angry. Among them was Gloria Allred, a civil rights lawyer currently representing several women who have levied accusations of sexual assault against Cosby, all of which the entertainer denies. In a series of comments made after the announcement, Allred accused Cosby of attempting to influence the jury pool ahead of his retrial.
"Mr. Cosby's so called workshops appear to be a transparent and slick effort to attempt to influence the jury pool from which jurors will be selected for his second criminal trial," Allred said in a statement to ABC News. "Mr. Cosby should understand, however, that this is not about optics. It is about evidence and according to news reports at least 10 jurors out of 12 voted to convict him on one felony count."
In an appearance on CNN late Thursday, Allred went a bit further, mulling the possibility Cosby was trying to "create a climate of opinion to potentially contaminate that jury pool or to influence them, depending on your point of view, so that if they are selected they will decide that somehow the charges against him are false."
While the idea of Cosby hosting seminars on sexual assault clearly doesn't sit well with Allred, she did offer the entertainer a bit of advice. "Under the circumstances Mr. Cosby should not be conducting sex assault workshops," she told ABC News. "But if he does do them then the best advice he can give to those attending is that if you do not drug and sexually assault women, then you need not worry about being charged with a crime."
Cosby's publicist, Ebonee Benson, told CNN the town halls are not about sexual assault but are being held to restore his "legacy that was destroyed by the media." However, days earlier, Benson had spoken about the town halls and sexual assault, saying, "You know, anything at this point could be considered sexual assault. It’s very — it’s a good thing to be educated about the law."
Allred isn't the only advocate to have been angered by his plan to advise others on avoiding sexual assault allegations. According to USA Today, attorney Lisa Bloom, who represents former model Janice Dickinson, another woman to have accused Cosby of sexual assault, said the move was "disgusting."
"In no rational world should Bill Cosby be permitted to talk to kids, or anyone, about sexual assault," USA Today reported Bloom said. "This is a man who admitted under oath to drugging women for sex. This is a man accused by sixty women of sexual misconduct, spanning decades."
Although Cosby's sexual assault trial, which stems from allegations the entertainer has vehemently denied, ended in a mistrial June 17, prosecutors were quick to announce they planned to retry the case. While nearly 60 women have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault over several decades — all of which his legal team has denied — only the allegations of Andrea Constand have led to criminal charges.
Constand alleged Cosby gave her drugs and then sexually assaulted her in his home in 2004. In an affidavit filed by Pennsylvania police in 2015, Constand claimed that Cosby gave her three blue pills the night of the alleged assault, which left her feeling incapacitated and "experiencing blurred vision and difficulty speaking" while Cosby sexually assaulted her. Cosby has maintained he only gave Constand Benadryl, that their sexual relations were consensual, and that Constand never said "no."
A spokesperson for Cosby told USA Today the former TV star had been inspired to plan a seminar tour after receiving "hundreds of calls from civic organizations and churches" asking him "to speak to young men and women about the judicial system."
Although prosecutors in the Bill Cosby case have said they hope to push for a retrial as soon as possible, it remains unclear when that might happen. In the meantime, it appears Cosby will continue remain as divisive a public figure as ever.