NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Bill Cosby made his first court appearance of the #MeToo era on Monday as defence 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 defence 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 defence 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 defence 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 defence 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 defence 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.
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