2nd UPDATE, 1:23 PM: Despite his efforts today to stop it, Bill Cosby is heading to trial after all on three felony second-degree aggravated indecent assault charges. At the end of a half-day hearing Thursday on the actor’s June 8 motion to halt the trial or get a new preliminary hearing, Pennsylvania Judge Steven O’Neill ruled to deny the habeus corpus in the case of the actor’s alleged drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004. That means the case will have a trial start date later this year, as previously scheduled.
This shuts down Cosby’s argument that he was prevented from a fair process when the former Temple University employee did not testify in the preliminary hearing of May 24. In finding that the accuser’s testimony was not required at the preliminary hearing a month and a half ago, O’Neill’s ruling today to not toss the case nor the charges against The Cosby Show creator re-confirms the first hearing and potentially could see the actor facing 10-years in jail if found guilty.
While over 50 women have come forward in the last few years to accuse Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them, this case in the Keystone State is the lone criminal case against the actor. Almost as soon as the ruling was read out in court, Cosby’s lawyers issued a statement – anticipating things would not be going their way in the matter.
“Once again the Prosecution had the opportunity and the obligation to place Mr. Cosby’s accuser under oath so that we can search for the truth but they refused,” the actor’s attorneys said on Thursday. “In this Courthouse and in this State, we have always protected the liberty of our citizens by requiring accusations like these to be tested by an examination under oath but not today.” They added, “Today a man who has meant so much to so many; a man who has given so much to so many; has had his constitutional rights trampled on. We truly believe that our Supreme Court will right this wrong and reverse this decision so that we can finish the mission of proving Mr. Cosby’s innocence.”
Earlier in the day, Cosby’s main lawyer Christopher Tayback once again put forth the idea that the incident, which Cosby settled with Constand in a civil suit in 2006, was consensual. The LA-based attorney told the Judge and the court, in which Cosby was present,that the actor gave Constand a Benadryl to help her relax when she was at his Philly mansion in early 2004.
“If you give somebody a pill and they ultimately have adverse reactions, if your purpose was to treat them, that’s not actionable,” said Tayback. Judge O’Neill immediately responded – “It is if you allegedly have sex with them after it.”
UPDATE: 11:21 AM: After a contentious session in which the judge rebuked Cosby’s lawyer over whether or not settling a civil suit in 2006 removed the need for prosecutors to “protect” Andrea Constand, today’s hearing in the Bill Cosby criminal case is on a short break.
“It doesn’t matter if it was 10 years ago or 10 days ago,” Judge Steven O’Neill told Cosby attorney Christopher Tayback in his Norristown, PA courtroom this morning. “The principles and concepts of re-victimization remain the same.” As a part of the defense’s effort to stop a trial that could see the widely accused actor in prison for up to a decade or get a new preliminary hearing, Tayback was arguing that because the ex-Temple U employee didn’t take the stand at the May 24 hearing, Cosby’s defense is damaged. The Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP lawyer cited the 2005 statement that was read out loud by a police officer at that hearing as why it was essential that Constand herself should have been in the courtroom. “The statement on its face begs more questions than it answers,” said Tayback of Constand’s recollection of her claim that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in early 2004.
TheMontgomery County D.A.s office said at Thursday’s hearing that Constand’s “credibility isn’t an issue” in the case. Cosby’s team has said that the interaction between the two back in 2004 was consensual.
The hearing continues Thursday.
PREVIOUSLY, 10:35 AM: Less than two-months after being ordered to stand trial on the alleged 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, Bill Cosby has today got his day in court – again. In a Norristown, PA hearing scheduled to start at 1 PM ET, the much accused comedian arrived just beforehand Thursday looking relaxed, smiling and waving to onlookers and walking with a cane. Today’s hearing is a consequence of Cosby’s latest attempt to derail a criminal trial on three felony second-degree aggravated indecent assault charges or get a do-over of the May 24 preliminary hearing that ruled such a trial would occur.
If found guilty on the only criminal charges laid against him so far despite allegations from over 50 women of such attacks, the 78-year old Cosby faces up to 10-years behind bars and some big fines. Should Cosby prove unsuccessful in putting a spanner in the legal works today, trial date is expected to be set later this month. However, Judge Steven O’Neill could name a trial date today if he agrees withe Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele and rules against Cosby’s motion. We’ll update as necessary.
Simultaneously, fighting the matter before the state Supreme Court and having filed their motion of dismissal on June 8 in Montgomery County, Cosby and his legal team are arguing today that they were denied the proper process in a May 24 hearing before Judge Elizabeth A. McHugh. The basis of their dispute is that Constand was not required to take the stand nor were they allowed to cross examine her. In the late May hearing, law enforcement officials read out statements by the former Temple University employee related to the alleged incident that occurred at Cosby’s suburban Philadelphia mansion over 12-years ago. Saying they did not want to add to Constand’s trauma, prosecutors have indicated that the alleged victim will testify at the trial if required.
Though allowed under the laws of the Keystone State, the decision to not have Constand in the courtroom or on the stand taints the process, say The Cosby Show’s representatives, who called the ruling a “travesty of justice” after the May 24 hearing. “During this hearing, the Commonwealth relied solely upon hearsay evidence to establish the elements of the charged offense, without providing Mr. Cosby an opportunity to confront and cross-examine his accuser,” says the petition that Cosby’s lawyers filed in early June.
Ampng all the claims and cases across the nation that Cosby is facing from over 50 women who say the actor assaulted them over the years, the Pennsylvania case is the only criminal case before the courts currently. Then newly elected D.A. Steele laid the charges against Cosby right at the end of 2015 to beat the state’s 12-year statute of limitations for such crimes. Cosby was arraigned December 30 and released on $1 million bail without entering a plea. After the then D.A. declined to press criminal charges back in 2005, Constand and Cosby came to a settlement in 2006 in a civil case — a settlement Cosby now wants back because he says Constand and her attorneys broke the confidentiality agreement of that deal. On May 13, Constand’s lawyers filed a motion to have Cosby’s case against her, her mother, her 2005 attorneys and National Enquirer owner American Media dismissed. A recent hearing on that matter is now under the consideration of a federal judge
As usual, Cosby is represented in court today by a praetorian guard of lawyers from L.A., D.C. and Philadelphia led by the actor’s main attorney Christopher Tayback of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.
Anna Orso & Chris Krewson contributed to this report