Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe today described the similarities between the alleged sexual assault of Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand and 19 other women as though the characteristics could belong on a scientific table.
Each alleged victim, she said during a pretrial hearing ahead of the April 2-starting trial in Norristown, PA, was younger than Cosby, most of them by at least 10 years. Each time, Cosby initiated the first contact, built a trusting relationship and, when the alleged assaults occurred, invited them into an environment he could control.
“The defendant knew Ms. Constand was incapacitated to an extent she couldn’t consent,” Jappe said. “Why? Because over the course of decades he did the same thing to 19 other women in strikingly similar fashion.”
Jappe presented the prosecution’s case for why it should be able to call on 19 other Cosby accusers to testify during the comedian’s sexual assault retrial. Judge Steven O’Neill pushed the defense’s argument for why the other alleged victims should not be able to testify until Tuesday. Earlier in the day, he denied two defense motions seeking for the case to be dismissed because of a statute of limitations argument and an accusation of prosecutorial misconduct.
Cosby, whose daughter Ensa died last week, arrived about 15 minutes later than the hearing’s scheduled starting time of 9 AM ET. He wore a tan blazer and smiled and chatted with his lawyers during breaks. After returning from one, O’Neill offered Cosby condolences for his daughter’s death. Cosby, who stood up while being addressed, said, “thank you.”
The case centers on a night in early 2004 in which Constand claims Cosby gave her pills and digitally penetrated and groped her without her consent. Cosby admitted to giving her pills in a deposition but has claimed the interaction was consensual. One of his attorneys, last summer, described their encounter as “romantic.”
When Jappe spoke for the prosecution this afternoon, Cosby was stone-faced and attentive. She said the Commonwealth needed evidence from other accusers to counter the inevitable attempts by the defense to challenge Constand’s credibility.
The prosecution’s argument centered on two precedents for allowing the other women to testify, the first allowing for the admission of prior bad acts when they are “distinctive and so nearly identical as to become the signature of the same perpetrator.” That’s why she went through the similar characteristics between the 19 accusers discussed in court.
The second involves a rule known as the doctrine of chances: “Because he did it so many times,” Jappe said, “it’s improbable he’s innocently enmeshed in this.”
For the first trial, O’Neill let one other accuser, Kelley Johnson, testify. He provided few hints for which direction he’ll choose this time but repeatedly asked whether allowing several accusers would be an “overload” and risk creating an unfair situation for the defendant.
O’Neill said he was not considering any of his past rulings when making decisions for the new trial, calling this hearing “ground zero.”
Cosby’s lead attorney Thomas Mesereau, best known for representing Michael Jackson, mostly let fellow lawyers Kathleen Bliss and Becky James speak for the defense today. His only comments nvolved asking whether he could mention Constand friend Marguerite Jackson during his opening statement at trial. Jackson has said Constand once spoke of fabricating a sexual assault story, and the defense will argue to make her an eligible witness.
Bliss opened the day by accusing Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and his team of misconduct for allegedly not investigating Jackson’s claim of fabrication. Steele denied the accusation, which O’Neill dismissed.
“For them to put that in the (motions),” Steele said, “is reckless and false.”
It was the second direct attack against the prosecution from Cosby’s side. After the mistrial was declared last year, Cosby’s wife called Steele “heinously and exploitively ambitious.”