UPDATED, 1:26 PM with Cosby lawyers’ statement, below: The criminal trial of Bill Cosby for the alleged rape of Andrea Constand in 2004 could start on June 5, a Pennsylvania judge surmised today. While nothing was set in stone and there are plenty of motions and even a potential change of venue to consider, the 79-year-old comedian likely will see a jury trial begin early next summer. If found guilty, the much-accused Cosby could end up behind bars for a decade and pay millions in fines on three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault.
With Cosby in attendance, Judge Steven O’Neill floated the date Tuesday during a pretrial hearing in Norristown, PA. The case originally was looking to go to trial next spring, but scheduling issues for the lawyers — especially Cosby’s main attorney Brian McMonagle — seemingly have forced the delay. The judge said today he wants to hear back from the Montgomery County D.A.’s office and the defense before making a decision.
Meanwhile, Cosby’s attorneys just released this statement:
“Mr. Cosby is no stranger to discrimination and racial hatred, and throughout his career Mr. Cosby has always used his voice and his celebrity to highlight the commonalities and has portrayed the differences that are not negative — no matter the race, gender and religion of a person.
“Yet, over the last fourteen months, Mr. Cosby, and those who have supported him, have been ignored, while lawyers like Gloria Allred hold press conferences to accuse him of crimes for unwitnessed events that allegedly occurred almost a half century earlier.
“The time has come to shine a spotlight on the trampling of Mr. Cosby’s civil rights. Gloria Allred apparently loves the media spotlight more than she cares about justice. She calls herself a civil rights attorney, but her campaign against Mr. Cosby builds on racial bias and prejudice that can pollute the court of public opinion. And when the media repeats her accusations – with no evidence, no trial and no jury – we are moved backwards as a country and away from the America that our civil rights leaders sacrificed so much to create.
“Mr. Cosby is not giving up the fight for his rights.”
PREVIOUS, 11:06 AM: Bill Cosby entered a courthouse in Norristown, PA today to cries of ‘we love you” from fans to face a pretrial hearing that could see the 79-year-old comedian behind bars for up to a decade if found guilty on three felony second-degree aggravated indecent assault charges. Cosby may also find himself not only facing Andrea Constand for the alleged 2004 sexual assault, but also more than a dozen of the more than 50 women who have accused him of assaulting and/or drugging them over the decades.
At the pretrial hearing today, the Montgomery County D.A.’s office introduced a motion on “prior bad acts” to have 13 of those women as witnesses in the criminal case against Cosby — the lone criminal case against the actor. However, Cosby is facing several defamation and other civil cases in states like California and Massachusetts, where the statute of limitations has expired. “It should be noted that the relevant similarities in this case are more numerous and establish more of a pattern than those seen in many of the case cited …where other admission of the other act evidence was permitted,” the motion points out (read it here). D.A. Kevin Steele referred to investigating the claims against Cosby by other women a “Herculean task” in court today.
Herculean or not, the judge made clear Tuesday that, while he is in no rush to name a trial date, he does wants to see the Pennsylvania criminal case started as soon. “This case now 252 days from filing of criminal complaints,” said Judge Steven O’Neill to the courtroom today. “There is a right to a speedy trial,” he added, telling attorneys on both sides to be “expeditious” with proposing evidence and discovery in the matter.
Still, O’Neill declined to give a trial date today. “We’re not going to call this case for trial,” the judge said. “I don’t see that there is any unreasonable delay.” That may hit a road bump as one of Cosby’s main lawyers Brian McMonagle has indicated to the court he might not be able to participate until next June. Also, the defense were granted a 60-day period to submit a change of venue request for the actual trial – another factor that could see an actual date not coming until at least Christmas with the expected back and forth over that venue once named by Cosby’s team.
Today’s hearing also saw Cosby’s lawyers introduce a slew of motions including one to suppress a telephone call of more than a decade ago between the comedian and Constand’s mother over the alleged assault. Cosby’s side says the call from Canada was illegally taped under Pennsylvania law even though actor was actually in California when the conversation took place. The senior Constand “was perfectly permitted to record phone call in Canada,” O’Neill said after listening to argument from both sides in his courtroom. At the same time, the judge also said Constand’s mother told Cosby he wasn’t being recorded and that the defense needs to hear the tape before that portion of the case can progress. Judge O’Neill said today he will likely rule of the admission of the tape in the next week or so.
While not yet evidence or not in the case, the muddy tape was played live in the courtroom to assess its authenticity, according to Judge O’Neill. In what seemed to be a cordial conversation, one of the voices on the tape was clearly Bill Cosby’s.
Facing criminal charges in the state for the sexual assault of Constand in 2004, Cosby has been unsuccessful in his attempts to get the case by the Montgomery County D.A. office tossed out, halted or reassessed. On July 7, the last time Cosby was in the suburban Philadelphia courthouse, O’Neill ruled to deny the habeas corpus in the case of Cosby’s alleged drugging and rape of the then-Temple University employee. On August 12, the state judge quashed another legal maneuver by Cosby’s team to stop the matter from going to trial later this year.
Steele kept a campaign promise and laid the criminal 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.
When 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 opened a case in federal court on February 1 against Constand, her mother, her former attorneys and the parent company of the National Enquirer over claims that they broke the confidentiality agreement around the 2006 deal.
After numerous motions, counter-claims and potential discovery in that matter, Cosby voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice on July 28. Ostensibly the motivation was to focus on the criminal case – with the new lawyers he had brought onboard.
Max Marin contributed to this report.