05 25 2016
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  • On Tuesday, a judge ordered the 78-year-old Cosby to stand trial on sexual assault charges 
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  • The judge concluded Officer Edward Nero played little role in the arrest and wasn't responsible for the failure by police to buckle Gray in  
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  • Bill Cosby faces a preliminary hearing Tuesday to determine if his criminal sex-assault case in suburban Philadelphia goes to trial.Prosecutors had declined to charge the comedian-actor over the 2005 complaint, but arrested him in December after his explosive deposition in the woman's lawsuit became public. In the testimony given in that deposition, Cosby is grilled about giving drugs and alcohol to women before sex; making secret payments to ex-lovers; and hosting Andrea Constand at his home. They knew each other through Temple University, where he was a trustee and she managed the women's basketball team. Bill Cosby's wife refused to answer dozens of questions during a combative deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed by seven women who say the comedian branded them liars after they accused him of sexually assaulting them, according to a transcript released Friday. Camille Cosby was subjected to intense questioning by the women's lawyer, who repeatedly pressed her to say whether she believes her husband "acted with a lack of integrity" during their 52-year marriage. The lawyer also asked if her husband used his position and power "to manipulate young women." Camille Cosby didn't answer those questions and many others after her lawyer cited marital privilege, the legal protection given to communications between spouses. She repeatedly said she had "no opinion" when pressed on whether she viewed her husband's behavior as dishonest and a violation of their marriage vows. About 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of forcing unwanted sexual contact on them decades ago. Cosby has denied the allegations. He faces a criminal case in Pennsylvania, where prosecutors have charged him with sexually violating a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty. Camille Cosby answered questions in the deposition Feb. 22 and again April 19 after her lawyers argued unsuccessfully to stop it. A judge ruled she would have to give a deposition but said she could refuse to answer questions about private communications between her and her husband. Camille Cosby's lawyer, Monique Pressley, repeatedly cited that privilege and advised her not to answer many questions asked by the women's lawyer, Joseph Cammarata. The exchanges between Cammarata and Cosby became testy at times, and she admonished him: "Don't lecture me. Just keep going with the questions." Using a transcript of a deposition Bill Cosby gave in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand in 2005 and a transcript of an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Cammarata asked Camille Cosby about extramarital affairs her husband had. "Were you aware of your husband setting up trusts for the benefit of women that he had a sexual relationship with?" Cammarata asked. She didn't answer after her lawyer cited marital privilege. Cammarata asked her about Shawn Thompson, a woman who said Bill Cosby fathered her daughter, Autumn Jackson, in the 1970s. Jackson was convicted in 1997 of attempting to extort money from Bill Cosby to prevent her from telling a tabloid she's his daughter. He acknowledged he had an affair with her mother and had given her money. "Was it a big deal when this came up in the 1970s that your husband had — big deal to you that your husband had an extramarital affair and potentially had a daughter from that extramarital affair?" Cammarata asked. "It was a big deal then, yes," Camille Cosby replied. She said she had "no opinion" on whether her husband's admission he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex violated their marriage vows. Her lawyer objected and instructed her not to answer when Cammarata asked her if she ever suspected she had been given any type of drug to alter her state of consciousness when she had sex with her husband. A spokesman for the Cosbys declined to comment on her deposition. The Cosbys have a home in Shelburne Falls, an hour's drive from Springfield, where the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed. An attorney handling a separate lawsuit against Bill Cosby revealed Friday that Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner provided sworn testimony Wednesday. In the sexual battery lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, Judy Huth says Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him at the Playboy Mansion around 1974, when she was 15. Bill Cosby's former lawyers have accused Huth of attempting to extort him before filing the case and have tried unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Huth's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Hefner's testimony will remain under seal for now. Hefner also was named as a defendant in a case filed Monday by former model Chloe Goins, who accuses Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008.   The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they're victims of sexual abuse, but the women accusing Cosby have come forward to tell their stories.___AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
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Charlene Crowell

You’ve probably heard the advertisements on urban radio urging consumers with at least $10,000 in debt to call a number right away for a financial rescue. Promising to end debt troubles by getting creditors to somehow accept less money than what is owed can sound really appealing. In reality, however, consumers mired in debt may often find debt settlement programs to be costly, misleading, and far less helpful than the radio ad promises.

In the newest chapter in the research series titled The State of Lending, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) finds that debt settlement is a risky strategy that can leave consumers more financially vulnerable and still laden with debt years after they enroll in such programs.

Regardless of how well consumers follow the instructions of their debt settlement firm, they may ultimately be unsuccessful because many creditors simply refuse to deal with debt settlement companies.

According to the report, “Debt settlement companies do not tell consumers whether creditors will work with their firms at the time of enrollment. However, even if debt-settlement companies were required to disclose whether a particular creditor routinely works with their firm, this provides no real guarantee. In many cases, the party who owns a debt changes over time, since a debt may be sold successively to multiple parties.”

Available data suggests that at least two-thirds of debts must be settled in order to achieve a net positive outcome from debt settlement. Even more debts must be settled for the consumer to achieve real savings if they end up being liable for taxes on the debt reduction.

In the end, many consumers never realize that kind of experience. Rather, they end up worse off financially. According to the American Fair Credit Council, an industry trade association, consumers must typically be enrolled in debt settlement plan for three to four years in order to complete the program. During this time, debt balances grow an average 20 percent while consumers wait for settlements to be reached. Additionally, their credit scores are negatively affected, financial instability increased, and the likelihood of creditor lawsuits loom near.

According to Leslie Parrish, co-author of the report and deputy research director at CRL, “When a consumer stops making payments on a debt, not only is she/he vulnerable to fees and an increased interest rate, the reporting of this delinquency to credit bureaus can impact credit scores for years.”

In general, the higher a consumer’s credit score is, the lower the cost of credit they will incur. Conversely, the lower one’s credit score, the higher the cost of credit and interest will be. Whether applying for a credit card, auto loan or a mortgage, bad credit histories make future credit and borrowing more expensive.

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued regulation that barred debt settlement companies from charging fees until they reached settlements with the client’s creditors. While this regulation has stopped some of the most egregious industry practices, CRL’s report finds that significant financial risks remain for debt settlement clients.

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shares regulatory oversight of debt settlement with the FTC. Thus far, CFPB has taken multiple enforcement actions against several debt-settlement companies and one payment processor.

CRL also sees a role for states to establish meaningful limits of debt settlement fees. One recommendation is to limit the fees that can be charged and to calculate such fees on the basis of the amount of savings achieved for the consumer.

State and federal regulators could also require better screening of prospective customers to lower the risk of a bad outcome. Factors such as the amount of debt to be enrolled, creditors and the consumer’s financial circumstances would be taken into account. Additional recommendations can be found in the report located at: http://rspnsb.li/1x5lPOe.

Ellen Harnick, co-author of the report and senior policy counsel at CRL, said, “What’s clear is that more action is necessary to protect consumers.”

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at Charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.  

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