By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Stung by a hung jury the first time around, prosecutors are pushing to widen the scope of Bill Cosby’s looming retrial to spotlight allegations he is one of the biggest serial predators in a Hollywood suddenly aware of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era.
The 80-year-old Cosby is back in a suburban Philadelphia courtroom on Tuesday as his lawyers try to convince a judge to block some of his dozens of accusers from testifying against him at his April 2 retrial.
Prosecutors want as many as 19 of Cosby’s accusers to take the stand as they attempt to show the comedian had a long history of drugging and attacking women. They also are trying to insulate the accuser in his lone criminal case, Andrea Constand, from what a prosecutor called the defense’s “inevitable attacks” on her credibility.
Cosby’s lawyers have argued in writing that some of the aspiring actresses, flight attendants and other women the prosecution wants to call have allegations dating to the 1960s that are impossible to defend against. Some witnesses are dead, memories are shot and evidence has been lost, the lawyers argued.
Prosecutors made their case on Monday for allowing the women, including model Janice Dickinson, to testify. It was the first day of what is scheduled to be a two-day pretrial hearing.
Allowing the women to take the stand would show jurors that Cosby “systematically engaged in a signature pattern of providing an intoxicant to his young female victim and then sexually assaulting her when she became incapacitated,” Assistant District Attorney Adrienne D. Jappe argued.
Judge Steven O’Neill said he would not rule on whether to allow the testimony by the end of the hearing, calling it an “extraordinarily weighty issue” that he needs time to review.
O’Neill allowed just one other accuser to take the stand at Cosby’s first trial last year, barring any mention of about 60 others who have come forward to accuse Cosby in recent years.
The only other hint that jurors got of Cosby’s past came from deposition excerpts from 2005 and 2006 in which the star admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
That jury deadlocked, setting the stage for the retrial.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball administrator, while he was a powerful alumnus and trustee. He has said the encounter was consensual. He remains free on bail.
Cosby’s revamped defense team, led by former Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, argued Monday that telephone records, travel itineraries and other evidence show the alleged assault could not have happened in January 2004, when Constand says it did, and thus falls outside the statute of limitations.
The date is important because Cosby was not arrested until Dec. 30, 2015 — meaning any assault prior to Dec. 30, 2003, would have fallen outside the 12-year statute of limitations.
O’Neill said he would leave that for the jury to decide, rejecting a defense motion to dismiss the charges.
Jury selection is slated to begin March 29.
Even before the hearing started, the judge knocked Cosby’s lawyers for falsely accusing prosecutors of hiding or destroying evidence.
O’Neill rejected a prosecution request to throw the lawyers off the case, saying he was reluctant to break up the defense with a retrial weeks away. But he added the defense lawyers were essentially “on notice.”
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Dickinson have done.
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