Key fights over evidence persist 2 months before Cosby trial

By , on April 4, 2017


The judge in Bill Cosby's sexual-assault trial heard arguments Monday without deciding whether the jury will hear Cosby's decade-old testimony about getting quaaludes to give women before sex.  (Photo: Bill Cosby/Facebook)
The judge in Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial heard arguments Monday without deciding whether the jury will hear Cosby’s decade-old testimony about getting quaaludes to give women before sex. (Photo: Bill Cosby/Facebook)

NORRISTOWN, Pa.—The judge in Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial heard arguments Monday without deciding whether the jury will hear Cosby’s decade-old testimony about getting quaaludes to give women before sex.

The suburban Philadelphia judge had previously ruled the jury won’t hear from a woman who says Cosby gave her quaaludes in the 1970s. However, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he might still let the jury hear Cosby’s own words on the topic.

Defence lawyer Brian McMonagle said the case has nothing to do with quaaludes and everything to do with the other accusers who emerged long after Temple University employee Andrea Constand went to police in 2005.

“What does this quaalude use in the 1970s have anything to do with Andrea Constand?” McMonagle asked. “This case has never had anything to do with Andrea Constand. … This case was brought to vindicate the allegations of others.”

Prosecutors argue that Cosby’s testimony from Constand’s 2005 lawsuit, along with his comedic riffs on the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly, show his familiarity with date rape drugs. The defence called the quaaludes testimony irrelevant because the prescription sedative was banned long before Cosby met Constand. And they scoffed at any legal arguments over the comedian’s Spanish fly sketch.

Yet Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan noted that county police had found a large stash of quaaludes even in a 2003 case, 20 years after they were banned from the market.

The trial is set to start June 5 and take about two weeks. Cosby, who appeared engaged and alert through the daylong hearing, has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

The judge plans to pick jurors from the Pittsburgh area in late May and keep their names private. The jurors will be sequestered throughout the trial, which is being held nearly 300 miles away in Norristown, during a period that for many families includes graduations, weddings and end-of-school-year events. That could increase the number of people claiming a hardship situation as lawyers seek a dozen jurors and six alternates.

Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and molesting Constand, then a Temple women’s basketball team manager, in 2004. He could face 10 years in prison if convicted of the felony charges.

He was arrested on Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.

With just two months left before trial, key arguments remain over what evidence can be introduced. Prosecutors, for instance, want to exclude Constand’s civil lawsuit, even as they try to use Cosby’s four-day deposition in that case. And the defence, while in favour of telling jurors that Constand sought damages from Cosby, doesn’t want them to know Cosby settled the case for an undisclosed sum after his deposition.

Cosby, in the deposition, also gave potentially damaging testimony about a string of affairs and sexual liaisons with young women over a 50-year span. He admitted giving some of them alcohol or pills before sexual activities some now call forced and offering a few of them money or educational trust funds when they accused him of misconduct.

The judge will allow just one other Cosby accuser to testify for the prosecution, a woman who worked for his agent and said she was drugged and assaulted in 1996.

Cosby, long beloved as America’s Dad for playing Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his sitcom “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, has called the encounter with Constand consensual.