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

Are you or someone you know being pursued or harassed late into the evenings and on weekends by debt collectors? If so, research shows that you are among one in seven Americans being pursued by debt collection agencies. In a newly-released chapter in its State of Lending series, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) found that debt buying and debt collection is big, big business. Among publicly-traded debt buyers’ income grew from $582 million in 2009 to more than $1 billion in 2012. 

And amid these billion dollar deals, scant regulation allows profiteers to take advantage of financially-distressed consumers, often securing court judgments for debts that may not even be owed. A 2009 Federal Trade Commission analysis of 3.9 million consumer accounts, found only 6 percent of the accounts came with any documentation. 

The new report also cites a disproportionate impact on low- and moderate-income communities. Black communities were also found to have higher rates of debt buyer lawsuits and default judgments.

“The sheer lack of accountability in this industry is astonishing,” said Lisa Stifler, CRL policy counsel and co-author of the report. “There is no requirement to verify debt information or inform a consumer about the transfer of debt. Sometimes a consumer learns about a debt only after an onslaught of collection attempts – or worse – a judgment is entered and wages are garnished or a bank account is seized.”

Debt buyers, specializing in purchasing delinquent debts and charged-off accounts, pick from a range of products and services: credit cards, auto loans, utility and phone bills, tax liens, medical services and more. Often,  the only information transferred in debt transactions are a name, last known address, and purported amount owed. Lenders that typically sell charged-off debts, offer these accounts “as is’ without any assurances or guarantees to the data’s accuracy of amounts owed or collectability of the debts. Over the past few years, the 19 largest banks sold about $37 billion in charged-off debt each year.

The result is that many times, debt buyers attempt to collect from or sue the wrong people, overstate the amount, or even collect illegitimate debts.

The financial gain for the debt buyer is a purchase of accounts often for only cents on dollars owed. From 2006-2009, the nation’s top debt buyers purchased $143 billion in consumer debt; but paid only $6.5 billion, approximately 4.5 cents on the dollar purchased. Then they are able to turn around a significant profit by collecting the full amount of the account.

Unfortunately, consumers are often unaware that their accounts have been sold to third parties. Usually, it is only after consumers begin receiving phone calls, letters, and correspondence from firms they do not know that they learn their accounts were sold. Some do not learn of the debt buyer until after a judgment is entered against them, and they find their wages garnished or bank accounts seized. Other consumer abuses include collection tactics that include offensive language during collection attempts, illegal threats to sue, and misrepresentation on amounts owed or the legal status of a loan.

As more debt buyers turn to the courts to sue consumers for debts owed, many obtain default judgments in their favor when consumers fail to appear in court. Missing a court appearance can happen for a variety of reasons, including that no notice of a lawsuit was ever received, a lack of understanding of the court process or the inability to secure legal representation.

When courts order a default judgment in the debt collector’s favor, collectors gain an extension on the life of the debts and also the legal right to collect in a variety of ways including bank account seizure, wage garnishment and property attachment. All too often, default judgments are based on inaccuracies, incomplete or outdated personal information or questionable claims.

“What we’re seeing is a pattern of predatory practices when it comes to some kinds of debt buying and collection – and that’s what is concerning,” said Mike Calhoun, CRL president.. “Just as a lender has the right to collect debts owed, borrowers should have the right to information about their debt and how it’s being handled and collected.”

It should be noted that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission share regulation of this industry. Further, CFPB recently began the process that will likely to lead to the first-ever rules overseeing debt collection.

“With prudent oversight at the federal and state levels, there’s no reason why this problem can’t be fixed”, concluded Calhoun.

  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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