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Jurors: Cosby extortion defendant led astray by mother, co-defendant

July 26, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Told since childhood that she was Bill Cosby’s daughter, 22-year-old Autumn Jackson won a jury’s sympathy but not its votes as she was convicted of trying to extort $40 million from the beloved actor.

The fact that Ms. Jackson’s mother and grandmother told her as early as age 5 that she was the product of her mother’s affair with Cosby made her ``ripe for a very bad stew,″ juror Debra Hyman said after Friday’s verdict.

Ms. Jackson burst into tears as the federal jury found her guilty of attempting to extort millions from Cosby by threatening to go public with her claim she is his out-of-wedlock daughter.

She also was convicted of conspiracy and crossing state lines to commit a crime. She faces up to 12 years in prison and $750,000 in fines when she is sentenced Oct. 22.

``How could they?″ she asked her attorney, Robert Baum, who said she was ``virtually inconsolable ... just devastated.″

Cosby, who acknowledged an affair with Ms. Jackson’s mother but denied he is the woman’s father, was not in court and had no comment on the verdict beyond a statement thanking prosecutors and jurors.

He had testified that he gave Ms. Jackson and her mother money since the mid-1970s, but only did so to keep her mother quiet about the affair.

The jurors said they heeded Judge Barbara Jones’ instruction that it was irrelevant whether Cosby is really Ms. Jackson’s father.

Ms. Jackson, her mother, Shawn Upshaw, and grandmother, Lois Maxfield, left court without commenting. Baum promised an appeal and a possible paternity suit.

Co-defendant Jose Medina, 51, was found guilty of the same charges. A third defendant, Boris Sabas, 42, was convicted of conspiracy and intrastate crime, but acquitted of extortion.

``Her hooking up with Medina was the biggest mistake of all,″ juror William Russell said of Ms. Jackson.

Medina helped hatch the plot in early January as he struggled to produce a children’s television show called ``Down on the Farm″ with an amateur cast that included Ms. Jackson and Sabas, prosecutors said.

They produced documents, letters and tapes showed that Ms. Jackson, with Medina’s encouragement and Sabas’s knowledge, conducted an escalating campaign of threats against Cosby.

The scheme included faxing copies of a $25,000 offer from the Globe tabloid to buy Ms. Jackson’s story. Despite a warning from Cosby’s lawyer that she was committing extortion, Ms. Jackson included a note saying, ``I need monies and I need monies now,″ prosecutors said.

In an FBI sting, Ms. Jackson and Medina agreed to fly into New York City on Jan. 18 to collect $24 million from Cosby’s lawyer. Instead, they were arrested.

Jurors said they were swayed by the testimony of another cast member who said he overheard Medina coaching Ms. Jackson as she sparred by phone with Cosby’s lawyer and telling her, ``If you want to destroy the enemy, you have to attack it from all sides.″