NEW YORK -- A federal jury convicted a 22-year-old woman yesterday of trying to extort $40 million from Bill Cosby, rejecting her argument that she was a naive young woman who had been spurned by a famous father.
The woman, Autumn Jackson, who claimed she was Cosby's illegitimate daughter, buried her head in her hands and sobbed uncontrollably after the jury of seven men and five women declared her guilty after three days of deliberations.
When she is sentenced Oct. 22, Jackson could receive a prison term of up to 12 years for her convictions on extortion and two other charges -- conspiracy and traveling across state lines to commit the offenses.
"How could they?" she asked her lawyer, Robert M. Baum, after the verdict.
Jurors who spoke with reporters after the verdict gave the answer. "Nobody has the right to extort money from their father," said Deborah Hyman, a juror.
Another juror, David Henkel, said the jury had been swayed by the prosecution's argument that Jackson and her two co-defendants threatened to sell her story to a supermarket tabloid unless they were paid millions, even after being warned by Cosby's lawyer that they were committing a crime.
"The fact that they still carried it out was a convincing proof," Henkel said.
Jack Schmitt, Cosby's lawyer, issued a statement saying "the Cosbys appreciate the efforts of the prosecutors who brought this case and the efforts of the jurors who rendered a just verdict."
Cosby himself declined to comment.
One of Jackson's co-defendants, Jose Medina, 51, a would-be screenwriter from Ohio, was convicted on the same charges.
A third defendant, Boris Sabas, 42, of Los Angeles was found guilty of conspiracy and crossing state lines but was acquitted of the extortion charge.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers drew starkly opposite portraits Jackson, who sat demurely in court during the trial.
In closing statements to the jury, one of the federal prosecutors, Lewis J. Liman, declared that Jackson "wasn't asking for hugs and kisses or love; she was asking for cold, hard cash."
During deliberations, the jurors asked for a picture of the estate that Jackson and her boyfriend, who pleaded guilty before the trial, planned to buy with more than $1 million in cash they expected to receive from Cosby.
Prosecutors said that Jackson was the "public face" of the plot and that she was coached by Medina as she telephoned Cosby and his lawyer from a motel.
"Even if Bill Cosby were Autumn Jackson's father, that still would not give Autumn Jackson the right to extort him," said another prosecutor, Paul A. Engelmayer.
Baum, Jackson's court-appointed lawyer, portrayed her as a gullible young woman who had been spurned by Cosby over the years after having received sporadic pep talks from the entertainer.
Baum quoted from Cosby's best-selling book, "Fatherhood," that the role of a father is to "be there."
It was an effort to show that the comedian had avoided his obligations to Jackson while paying her mother to remain silent about their affair two decades ago.
Testifying last week, a somber Cosby admitted to a Las Vegas tryst in the mid-1970s with Jackson's mother, Shawn Upshaw. He acknowledged providing more than $100,000 in regular financial support to the mother and daughter ever since.
But Cosby said he does not believe that the young woman is his daughter. He has refused to take a blood test.
Baum said that Jackson had engaged merely in what she believed were negotiations with a parent, and he charged that Cosby drove the young woman to desperation by promising love and then ignoring her.
The lawyer said he would appeal and might also bring a paternity suit against Cosby.
Judge Barbara S. Jones ruled that the issue of whether Jackson is actually Cosby's daughter is not pertinent. But she allowed the defense to argue that Jackson had been raised to believe that he is her biological father.
Jackson and Medina were arrested after they had traveled to New York in January to collect $24 million from the comedian in return for agreeing not to sell the story to the Globe.
Pub Date: 7/26/97