2nd UPDATE, 1:26 PM: Ending an hour earlier than expected, the first day of the latest pre-trial hearings in Bill Cosby’s 2004 rape case concluded with a plea deal looking very distant and little serious argument from either the prosecution or the defense — but a lot of loud voices.
On a day of much yelling in the courtroom, even Cosby got into the shouting. At one point he bellowed out “1937″ and “July 12th” when the judge asked from the bench what the defendant’s birthdate is. At another point, the actor was grinning during remarks from the local D.A. – who charged him with the three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault late last year. This follows the chattier-than-usual Cosby telling security “don’t tase me, bro” when entering the courtroom this morning.
With just over two hours of the day dedicated to actual discussion of whether 13 other women who say Cosby sexually assaulted or drugged them — like he allegedly did former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in this Pennsylvaniua case — will be allowed to testify, most of Tuesday’s proceedings were mired in bickering and shouting matches between Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele and the defense.
After an extended dust-up over which way a defense PowerPoint should face, Steele had about 60 minutes to present his argument of why the 13 should take the stand in the trial next summer. At its core, the argument was that Cosby had a “common scheme” to take advantage of women sexually with use of drugs. It was this “signature,” as Steele termed the apparent pattern, which he said is why the testimony is necessary to show the behavior that Constand was subjected to.
Having to stop at the account of the 11th accuser of the 13 the prosecutors want to call, Steele will continue his presentation first thing Wednesday.
All of which means today ended with a lot of the legal heavy lifting being punted to tomorrow, the final day of this round of pre-trial hearings in front of Judge Steven O’Neill. As that takes place — one day closer to the June trial that could see 79-year-old Cosby behind bars for up to a decade and paying some serious fines — any talk of a plea deal still remains in the very “early” stages at best, according to a source with close knowledge of the situation.
The yelling of the morning in the suburban Philly courtroom picked up this afternoon with Cosby lawyer Angela Agrusa telling the judge and others that the 13 women selected by Steele’s office to testify were picked with the help of noted L.A.-based attorney Gloria Allred.
Agrusa said that nearly all of the women are clients of Allred, who was in the courtroom today as she was during the previous set of hearings. Documentation eventually was entered into evidence that noted Allred’s role as a representative of several of the women, but if the defense was trying to turn today’s session into an indictment of the media-friendly attorney, it foundered as O’Neill quickly moved matters along.
Unfortunately, that led to a new low in a case that has seen several lows, with Steele and Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle yelling at each other again. This time the contentious matter was that PowerPoint that the defense wanted to present and whether it should face the media and others in the courtroom. The D.A.’s point was that the presentation featured the names of the women they wanted to testify – including two that the judge had said earlier today should be redacted. In the end, the presentation was left angled toward O’Neill but visible to those in the courtroom
At one point, the judge — who had referred to the previous screaming matches as “uncivil” — half-joked that he might have to get the Sheriff’s deputies in the court “involved” if the lawyers couldn’t “control” themselves. O’Neill also told both sides they would have as much time as they need to make their arguments over today and Wednesday.
Tomorrow’s hearing is set to start at 9 AM ET with Bill Cosby in attendance, as he has been in similar court appearances. The supposedly nearly blind Cosby left the courtroom today on the arm of an aide as he had entered this morning but this time with no cane.
UPDATE, 9:42 AM: If discussions of a plea deal for Bill Cosby over the criminal charges from a 2004 rape allegation have progressed anywhere beyond the preliminary, there was little evidence of it today at a pre-trial hearing in suburban Philadelphia.
After months of attempts by Team Cosby to stop or kneecap the case and “early conversations” between the parries over a possible deal, the hearing started Tuesday with D.A Kevin Steele and Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle getting loud and heated over material the defense wanted to enter as evidence. In fact, Judge O’Neill called the exchange between the two lawyers “uncivil” as Steele and McMonagle went into a mode that may characterize the June set trial if it goes forward.
Specifically, the yelling match was over two binders defense that detailed the 13 other Cosby accusers that the prosecution is seeking to have allowed to testify in next year’s trial. The D.A.’s office wants the words of the other women in the Constand trial to show a pattern of behavior on Cosby’s part over the decades.
Claiming that purpose of the evidence was to “intimidate people,” Steele first objected to the material being entered, which Judge O’Neill eventually denied. As voices were raised between the Steele and McMonagle, the Cosby lawyer noted that many of the women had may numerous media appearances on the matter over the past two years. “These are witnesses in a trial, they are not children,” McMonagle added.
In the end, the evidence was allowed to be entered but the names and other information of two of the 13 women was to be redacted, as they have not gone public previously.
Expected to go until 5 PM ET, the hearing is currently on a lunch break.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:48 AM: Amidst speculation of a plea deal in the making between his team and the Montgomery County D.A.’s office, Bill Cosby arrived in court this morning for the first of two days of pre-trial hearings over the alleged 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand that could see over a dozen other accusers permitted to testify next year.
Both sides in the matter have denied a plea deal is in the works, but a source close to the situation tells Deadline that there have been “early conversations” between Cosby’s attorneys and the PA office of D.A. Kevin Steele
Waving to onlookers as he has at past hearings, the much accused and allegedly nearly blind actor entered the Norristown, PA courthouse just before 9 AM local time on Tuesday with a cane in one hand and a bodyguard supporting the other. Drawing on a line from the incident at the University of Florida in 2007 during a John Kerry speech, the comedian quipped “don’t tase me bro” to court security as he entered the building, according to the Associated Press.
With a trial set to start next June, it is not laughing matter that the 79-year old Cosby could face up to a decade behind bars and hefty fines if found guilty of the three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault against the then Temple University employee.
After the first set of pre-trial hearings last month and a series of subsequent rulings from Judge Steven O’Neill that did not go his way, Cosby’s lawyers today and Wednesday will seek to halt or blunt arguments by prosecutors to have 13 other women who have accused the actor of sexual assault and/or drugging them to take the stand to reinforce Constand’s story.
Despite over 60 women having now gone public in the past two years with their own stories of assault by The Cosby Show creator, the Pennsylvania case is the only criminal case against Bill Cosby. The actor was charged late last year just before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations on sex crimes expired. He was arraigned December 30 and released on $1 million bail without entering a plea. In the subsequent months, Cosby and his somewhat revolving door of attorneys have tried a variety of methods and jurisdictions to get the case dismissed – none ultimately successful obviously.
Mark Dent contributed to this report.
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