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Prosecutors push judge to let other Cosby accusers testify

Written by Michael R. Sisak/Associated Press | Mar 5, 2018 3:15 PM
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Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Bill Cosby after a mistrial in his sexual assault case in at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Saturday, June 17, 2017. Cosby's trial ended without a verdict after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision.



(Norristown) -- Bill Cosby made his first court appearance of the #MeToo era on Monday as defense lawyers tried without success to get his sexual assault case thrown out, then turned their attention to blocking some of the 80-year-old comedian's dozens of accusers from testifying at his looming retrial.

Prosecutors are trying to persuade the judge to allow as many as 19 other women to take the stand, including model Janice Dickinson, as they attempt to show the comedian had a long history of drugging and attacking women.

They're also trying to insulate Cosby's accuser, Andrea Constand, from what a prosecutor called "inevitable attacks" on her credibility.

Allowing other women to take the stand will show jurors that Cosby "systematically engaged in a signature pattern of providing an intoxicant to his young female victim and then sexually assaulting her when she became incapacitated," Assistant District Attorney Adrienne D. Jappe told the judge.

Cosby's lawyers will address the issue in court Tuesday. They've argued in writing that some of the women's allegations date to the 1960s and are impossible to defend against, given that some witnesses are dead, memories are faded and evidence has been lost.

Judge Steven O'Neill said he would not rule on whether to allow the testimony by the end of the two-day hearing, calling it an "extraordinarily weighty issue" that he needs time to review.

The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand at Cosby's first trial last year, barring any mention of about 60 others who have come forward to accuse Cosby in recent years.

The only other hint that jurors got of Cosby's past came from deposition excerpts from 2005 and 2006 in which the star admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.

Cosby, who entered the courtroom on the arm of his spokesman, has said his encounter with Constand was consensual. A jury deadlocked on the case last year, setting the stage for a retrial.

Earlier Monday, Cosby's retooled defense team, led by former Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, had argued that telephone records, travel itineraries and other evidence show the alleged assault couldn't have happened when Constand says it did and thus falls outside the statute of limitations.

The defense disputed Constand's testimony at last year's trial that he assaulted her at his suburban Philadelphia home in January 2004, when she was a Temple University women's basketball executive and he was a powerful Temple trustee. Constand didn't give a specific date, but said the incident had to have happened prior to Jan. 20, when her cousin moved into her Philadelphia apartment.

Cosby's lawyers told O'Neill they'd found evidence that Cosby wasn't even in Pennsylvania during that time. Constand testified she would have called Cosby to be let into his home, but his lawyers said her phone records don't reflect such a call within her timeframe.

The date is important because Cosby wasn't arrested until Dec. 30, 2015 -- meaning any assault prior to Dec. 30, 2003, would have fallen outside the 12-year statute of limitations.

O'Neill said he'd leave that for the jury to decide, rejecting a defense motion to dismiss the charges.
Jury selection is slated to begin March 29.

Even before Monday's arguments got underway, Cosby's lawyers were rapped by the judge for falsely accusing prosecutors of hiding or destroying evidence.

District Attorney Kevin Steele asked O'Neill to throw Cosby's legal team off the case for claiming that prosecutors failed to reveal they'd interviewed a woman who cast doubt on Cosby's accuser.

The defense withdrew the allegation days later after his former lawyer confirmed he knew that the prosecution interviewed the woman before Cosby's first trial.

The DA argued Cosby's new lawyers acted recklessly and "are at best incompetent and otherwise unethical."

O'Neill, who presided over Cosby's first trial, said he was reluctant to break up Cosby's legal team with his retrial several weeks away. But he added the defense lawyers were essentially "on notice."

Monday's hearing came just 10 days after Cosby's 44-year-old daughter, Ensa, died of kidney disease. The judge expressed condolences to Cosby at the start of the hearing.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Dickinson have done.

An earlier story appears below. 

(Norristown) -- The judge who's presiding over Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial says he'll need some time to consider prosecutors' request to call as many as 19 accusers to the witness stand.

Judge Steven O'Neill on Monday called it an "extraordinarily weighty issue" that he needs time to review.

Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting a woman at his home in 2004. He says the encounter was consensual.

Prosecutors say they need the testimony of other accusers to help bolster Andrea Constand's credibility. The defense opposes letting the other women testify.

Cosby and his lawyers didn't comment as they left the courthouse after court adjourned for the day.

Both sides return to court Tuesday for more arguments.

An earlier story appears below. 

A judge has denied requests from Bill Cosby's lawyers to throw out his sexual assault case.

Judge Steven O'Neill on Monday denied a defense motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitations and prosecutorial misconduct grounds.

Cosby's lawyers argued the alleged assault that led to his arrest couldn't have happened in January 2004, as accuser Andrea Constand has testified, and falls outside the statute of limitations.

O'Neill said he'd leave that for the jury to decide.

Prosecutors are trying to persuade the judge to allow as many as 19 other accusers to testify as the retrial. They say the testimony is needed to counter the defense team's "inevitable attacks" on Constand's credibility.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.

An earlier story appears below. 

(Norristown) -- A day after Hollywood's first Oscars of the #MeToo era, Bill Cosby went to court Monday in a bid to get his sexual assault case thrown out -- or at least stop some of his dozens of accusers from testifying at his retrial.

Cosby's retooled defense team, led by former Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, argued that telephone records, travel itineraries and other evidence show the alleged assault couldn't have happened when prosecutors say it did and thus falls outside the statute of limitations.

The defense disputed accuser Andrea Constand's testimony at Cosby's first trial last year that the 80-year-old entertainer drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home some time in the first part of January 2004. Constand didn't give a specific date, but said the incident had to have happened prior to Jan. 20, when her cousin moved into her Philadelphia apartment.

Cosby's lawyers told Judge Steven O'Neill on Monday they've found evidence that Cosby wasn't even in Pennsylvania during that time. Constand testified she would have called Cosby to be let into his home, but his lawyers said her phone records don't reflect such a call within her timeframe.

The date is important. Cosby was arrested on Dec. 30, 2015, meaning any encounter prior to Dec. 30, 2003 would have fallen outside the 12-year statute of limitations.

Even before the arguments got underway Monday, Cosby's lawyers were rapped by the judge for falsely accusing prosecutors of hiding or destroying evidence.

District Attorney Kevin Steele asked O'Neill to throw Cosby's legal team off the case for claiming that prosecutors failed to reveal they'd interviewed a woman who cast doubt on Cosby's accuser.

The defense withdrew the allegation days later after his former lawyer said he confirmed being aware that the prosecution interviewed the woman before Cosby's first trial.

The DA argued Cosby's lawyers acted recklessly and "are at best incompetent and otherwise unethical."

O'Neill, who presided over Cosby's first trial, said he was reluctant to break up Cosby's legal team with his retrial looming. But he added the defense lawyers were essentially "on notice."

Cosby, who entered the courtroom on the arm of his spokesman, is charged with drugging and molesting Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home. Cosby said the encounter was consensual. A jury deadlocked on the case last year, setting the stage for a retrial.

If the defense loses its bid to have the charges tossed, Cosby's lawyers are trying to limit the number of accusers who can testify.

Prosecutors have raised the prospect of calling as many as 19 women to the witness stand, including model Janice Dickinson, in an attempt to show a sinister flip side to Cosby's public persona as "America's Dad," cultivated through his role as an affable Jell-O pitchman and the star of the top-rated 1980s family sitcom "The Cosby Show."

Prosecutors allege the assault on Constand was part of Cosby's five-decade pattern of drugging and harming women.

Cosby's lawyers argue that some of the other accusers' allegations date to the 1960s and are "virtually impossible to defend against." They said they would seek to delay the retrial if any of the women were allowed to testify so they could have more time to investigate their claims.

The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand at Cosby's first trial, barring any mention of about 60 others who have come forward to accuse Cosby in recent years.
The only other hint that jurors got of Cosby's past came from deposition excerpts from 2005 and 2006 in which the star admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
Jury selection in the retrial is slated to begin March 29.

Monday's hearing comes just 10 days after Cosby's 44-year-old daughter, Ensa, died of kidney disease. His lawyers have given no indication they would seek to delay the hearing or his retrial.
In January, Cosby emerged from a long period of near-seclusion to have dinner with friends at a restaurant and give his first comedy performance in more than two years. Legal experts said the nights on the town appeared to be an effort to rebuild his good-guy image.

Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and molested Constand, a former Temple University women's basketball official, at his suburban Philadelphia home. He remains free on bail.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Dickinson have done.

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