(UPDATED with more from morning session) “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, questions of consul are not evidence,” a clearly annoyed Judge Steven O’Neill today told the seven men and five women who will decide the fate of Bill Cosby in the actor’s trial for the alleged 2004 rape of Andrea Constand. Unlike the often-freewheeling opening day of the criminal case Monday where he often seemed a side player, the Pennsylvania state judge was far less patient early Tuesday with the antics of attorneys on both sides in the trial that has captured the media spotlight.
“Move to a line of question that is relevant,” O’Neill sternly cautioned Cosby defense attorney Angela Agrusa, warning the L.A.-based lawyer to stay on point and “not ask any question you like.” Taking a balanced approach, O’Neill also repeatedly advised Montgomery County Deputy D.A. Kristen Feden in her questioning of the mother of a woman who claims Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996. The statements by both witnesses were intended by the prosecution to show a pattern of “bad acts” by Cosby in his behavior and M.O. when it came to what is claimed to be non-consensual sex.
In the only criminal case against him, the once-beloved Cosby is looking at more than 10 years behind bars if found guilty. Arrested in late 2015 just before the state’s statute of limitations on such sex crimes expired, Cosby was indicted on three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault against the then-Temple University employee Constand more than a decade ago. Constand is expected to testify later this week in the Norristown, PA-set trial.
Following her daughter and former William Morris assistant Kelly Johnson’s tear-filled testimony Monday detailing an alleged assault by Bill Cosby in 1996, Johnson’s mother Patrice Sewll took the stand today. “Anxious, depressed, sad” is how Sewll characterized her daughter in a presentation designed to corroborate Johnson’s statements of yesterday, and in the past, about Cosby drugging and attacking her more than 20 years ago at the Hotel Bel-Air.
“She was upset because she believed Mr. Cosby set her up,” Sewll added of a phone call Johnson overheard not long after the alleged assault at the hotel, where the actor seemed to encourage his then-William Morris agent Tom Illius to fire her. “She was afraid,” Sewll emphasized.
On the stand for several hours Monday, Johnson is the only other Crosby accuser permitted to testify in the criminal case. Earlier this year, the Montgomery County D.A.’s office sought to have sworn courtroom statements from 13 of the nearly 60 women who have claimed the actor drugged and/or assaulted them. O’Neill trimmed that request down to just Johnson because her 1996 case seemed similar to what Constand says happened to her in 2004.
In much more poised testimony, Swell, a former educational professional, reiterated a sequence of events that was more concise but almost identical to what Johnson described in sometimes graphic detail Monday. “I’m here to tell what I know happened to my daughter,” she bluntly told the courtroom.
Unlike yesterday, Sewll was cross-examined by Agrusa, not the more aggressive Brian McMonagle. While Sewll did tear up under questioning from Deputy D.A. Kristen Feden, she more than held her composure dealing with Agrusa, even when the latter tried to draw her into a line of questioning about Illius being “verbally abusive” and making “lewd and sexual comments.”
The new tone of the proceedings seemed evident early Tuesday morning. Right as things started at about 9:30 AM ET, the judge was openly peeved by an onlooker’s cell-phone ringtone piercing the air of the courtroom with Gnarls Barkley’s hit “Crazy.”
Soon after Sewll’s testimony started, Feden, her colleague Stewart Ryan, the judge, Agrusa and McMonagle scurried to the far right of the courtroom for a sidebar on an objection from Cosby’s team. After several minutes of what seemed primarily like O’Neill talking, they headed back to their seats before the judge called everyone over for another quick chat to clarify his intentions, as he pointed out once he was back on the bench.
The day actually began with a ruling by O’Neill that Sewll would be able to take the stand as a witness for the prosecution. The matter was addressed in a session Monday after the jury was released. Also brought up during that evening session was the matter of allowing a lawyer associated with Johnson’s missing William Morris declaration from her mid-199os-workers-compensation case to take the stand. O’Neill decided that Joseph Miller would also be allowed as a witness today.
“She was semi-unconscious because of something she had taken” and “her clothes were off,” Miller recalled of Johnson’s 1996 deposition, for which he was in the room. “I remembered she cried several times during the deposition,” he summarized for Ryan of the Hotel Bel-Air “incident,” as Miller referred to the matter. Highly familiar with the details of the alleged assault and her work situation at William Morris, Miller’s chain of events was also supportive of the testimony Johnson laid out Monday.
The retired lawyer’s testimony continues after the first morning break of the day.
In the courtroom once again, Cosby arrived today around 8:40 AM ET with a far thinner entourage than Monday, and minus members of his family (either real or the TV version). Before the trial started, the 79-year-old actor spent most of his time in animated chatter with a pair of casually dressed older men his PR rep had brought into the courtroom.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks, with Cosby not expected to testify on his own behalf.
UPDATE, 9:45 AM: After more testimony from now retired William Morris lawyer Joseph Miller, the latter part of the morning saw a Toronto area detective take the stand to discuss a self described “sexual assault” call he received in on January 13, 2005.
Noting that the sexual elements of the case that were presented to him, Miller made it clear that William Morris paid out a “close to around $10,000” settlement with former agent assistant Kelly Johnson in her worker’s compensation case and exit from the agency.
Another out of state visitor was next in the witness box.
“She said Bill Cosby offered her a couple of pills to help her relax,” Det. David Mason told Deputy D.A. Stewart Ryan that Andrea Constand told him and two other officers of a visit to the actor’s Philadelphia home the year before. “She was offered three pills” that had a quick effect of making Constand very unsteady on her feet and very light headed. “Mr. Cosby escorted her to a sitting room off the kitchen, where she could lay down,” Mason told the Deputy D.A. of what the Canadian-born Constand told the officers happened next.
Noting that Constand gave him the impression she couldn’t remember parts of what happened next, the Canadian policeman described several details of Cosby touching the then Temple University employee in a sexual manner. Citing “digital penetration,” Mason said that Constand told her she felt “something foreign was in her body” t the time
Asked if Constand had told him why it took nearly a year between the incident at Cosby’s Philadelphia area home in 2004 and the early 2005 call, Mason responded that “she said that she was embarrassed by it.” He also added that she said she knew the “profile” Cosby had in that community and it could harm future career aspirations in TV Sports broadcasting. Mason also noted under questioning from Ryan that Constand did tell him and the other officers at her parents’ Pickering Ontario home that she had contacted a Philly lawyer who specialized in sexual assault.
Before telling her story, Constand had showed the trio of officers several photos of herself and Cosby, who she described as friend who she had dined with on a few occasions..
Under cross examination from defense lawyer McMonagle, Det. Mason said that Constand did not informed him or the other officer at the time that she had other intimate contact with Cosby.