Judge again refuses to toss Bill Cosby’s sex-assault case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge on Wednesday denied Bill Cosby’s latest attempt to end his sexual assault case and rejected his request for competency testing of the 13 women who want to testify that they were drugged and violated by the comedian.
Judge Steven O’Neill hasn’t yet ruled on whether prosecutors will be allowed to call the women to the stand or on whether prosecutors can use Cosby’s lurid 2005 deposition from a related lawsuit as evidence.
The 79-year-old entertainer once known as America’s Dad for his role on “The Cosby Show” is scheduled to go on trial by June on charges he drugged and molested Andrea Constand, a former employee of his alma mater, Temple University, in 2004 at his suburban Philadelphia home.
Cosby has said the encounter was consensual. He is free on $1 million bail. He could get 10 years in prison.
Another pretrial hearing is scheduled next month, when both sides will debate whether the other accusers should be allowed to testify.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Wednesday’s rulings “get us one step closer” to trial and “furthers our pursuit of justice for the victim in our case.”
The ruling was the second time O’Neill refused to throw out the case. In February, he tossed aside the former district attorney’s claim that he had granted Cosby immunity from prosecution a decade earlier.
Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle declined to comment.
Defense lawyers had asked O’Neill to dismiss the case because they said prosecutors unfairly prejudiced him by waiting until last year to bring charges.
They said he has memory problems, is blind in his right eye and has glaucoma in both eyes and cannot identify his accusers in photographs or otherwise help with his defense. They also portrayed him as a political pawn who is being prosecuted only because Steele used the public furor over the comic to get elected last year.
Prosecutors had argued Cosby caused the delay in his arrest by fighting efforts by The Associated Press — in 2006 and again in 2014 — to unseal his testimony in Constand’s 2005 lawsuit.
Prosecutors said that it was not until a judge revealed excerpts of the deposition last year that they learned that Cosby had admitted to a series of affairs and acknowledged obtaining quaaludes to give to women before sex.
Cosby’s lawyers say he only sat for the deposition after the then-district attorney promised the entertainer would never face arrest in the Constand case.
The strength of the prosecution’s case may largely rest on whether Cosby’s damaging deposition is shown to jurors and how many of the other accusers are allowed to testify.
Cosby admitted in the deposition that he gave Constand three unmarked blue pills before a sexual encounter in January 2004. Constand said she wasn’t fully conscious and couldn’t give consent.
Cosby’s lawyers had wanted to have the other accusers questioned on their potential testimony in closed-door hearings in the judge’s chambers. Instead, their accounts will be argued in court Dec. 13-14 without the women present.
Cosby’s lawyers are expected to fight strenuously to show each woman’s testimony is not relevant, not part of a pattern of criminal behavior or too likely to prejudice a jury.
For each of the 13 women, the defense will do as much as possible to show “it’s not even fair to present this witness,” said defense lawyer David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor.
That could include arguing that Cosby wasn’t in the same town at the time; that he had alibi witnesses who have since died; that the accusers’ stories have changed over time; and that there’s an ulterior motive, financial or otherwise, behind the accusation.
“The prosecution has the burden of showing a common scheme and design,” Rudovsky said.
The AP typically doesn’t name people who say they are sexual-assault victims, but Constand’s lawyer has given permission for her to be named.