UPDATED with hearing underway: Bill Cosby, wearing a tan blazer and smiling while chatting with his lawyers, arrived back in Norristown, PA court this morning, as the prosecution in his sexual assault case brought by Andrea Constand aaims to convince the judge 19 other accusers should be able to testify and his defense attempts a final Hail Mary to get the charges dismissed.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill, who presided over Cosby’s first trial last summer that ended in a hung jury, will listen to the defense argue the Commonwealth committed prosecutorial misconduct by withholding evidence, that the alleged assault didn’t occur within the necessary 12-year time frame of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, and that a colleague of Constand’s who says Constand once spoke of fabricating a claim of abuse against Cosby should be allowed testify.
The case centers on a night from 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.”
In Cosby’s original trial, only one accuser besides Constand, Kelley Johnson, was permitted to testify. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele had originally petitioned for the court to allow a total of 13 women to testify. Today he will be arguing for O’Neill to let those same women, plus six more, speak at Cosby’s retrial. A statute in Pennsylvania allows for the admission of prior bad acts when they are “distinctive and so nearly identical as to become the signature of the same perpetrator.” More than 50 women have claimed Cosby sexually assaulted them.
Thomas Mesereau, Michael Jackson’s former attorney, is leading Cosby’s defense. He’s joined by Philadelphia attorney Samuel Silver and Los Angeles lawyer Becky James. Star attorneys Brian McMonagle, Monique Pressley and Angela Agrusa have all left Cosby’s defense since the comic was first charged in December 2015.
Last summer, O’Neill called for a retrial after the jury didn’t return a verdict after 52 hours of deliberation over five days. Jury selection for the new trial is set to begin March 29.