Judge won’t move Cosby as­sault trial

Out­side jury panel to be se­questered

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - MARYCLAIRE DALE

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — A se­questered jury from an out­side county will de­cide the sex­ual as­sault case against Bill Cosby, a sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia judge ruled Mon­day, re­ject­ing a de­fense re­quest to move the trial be­cause of world­wide me­dia re­ports that the ac­tor’s lawyers say brand him a “se­rial rapist.”

Mont­gomery County Judge Steven O’Neill will over­see a June 5 trial over charges that Cosby drugged and mo­lested a for­mer Tem­ple Univer­sity employee in 2004.

O’Neill’s rul­ing came af­ter lawyers for the 79-year-old TV star ar­gued that his trial should be moved to Philadel­phia or the Pitts­burgh area. The larger, more di­verse pop­u­la­tion would make it eas­ier to find un­bi­ased ju­rors, lawyer Brian McMona­gle ar­gued, but even then, he said, there was no guar­an­tee that Cosby could get a fair hear­ing.

“Un­less you’ve been liv­ing un­der a rock, the mes­sage that has been pro­moted, in in­sid­i­ous fash­ion, is that Bill Cosby is guilty, and that Bill Cosby is a se­rial rapist,” McMona­gle said. “I do not be­lieve that there’s a place any­where in this coun­try now where he can re­ceive a fair trial. Not here, not any­where. I hope I’m wrong.”

Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused the de­fense of try­ing to shop for a jury.

In a court fil­ing, District At­tor­ney Kevin Steele called the pre­trial pub­lic­ity ar­gu­ment “a red her­ring.” He said Cosby couldn’t ex­pect to find a jury any­where that is “obliv­i­ous” to the dozens of sex-as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions lodged against him by An­drea Con­stand and other ac­cusers.

“He’s not en­ti­tled to a jury that is ig­no­rant of the facts sur­round­ing his case,” Steele wrote. “The pub­lic­ity that nec­es­sar­ily fol­lows the rich and fa­mous can­not in­su­late them from pros­e­cu­tion.”

Pros­e­cu­tors did not ob­ject to us­ing an out­side jury at the

court­house in Norristown, but fought the bid to move the trial.

They told O’Neill that they could find a dozen un­bi­ased ju­rors in coun­ties with fewer than 1 mil­lion peo­ple, the size sought by the de­fense.

“It’s not just short on the law, but short on logic,” As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney M. Ste­wart Ryan ar­gued Mon­day.

Cosby has pleaded in­no­cent to charges that he sex­u­ally as­saulted Con­stand at his sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia home. The As­so­ci­ated Press doesn’t typ­i­cally iden­tify peo­ple who say they are vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault un­less they have come for­ward pub­licly, as Con­stand has done.

With O’Neill’s de­ci­sion to im­port an out-of-county jury, the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court must now de­cide where in Penn­syl­va­nia the ju­rors will be se­lected.

Mon­day’s hear­ing came af­ter the judge dealt a blow to the pros­e­cu­tion by lim­it­ing the num­ber of ac­cusers who can tes­tify at the trial. Pros­e­cu­tors wanted to put 13 more women on the stand to bol­ster charges that Cosby had drugged and mo­lested women be­fore the 2004 en­counter with Con­stand.

O’Neill ruled Fri­day that only one of those ac­cusers may tes­tify. She worked for Cosby’s agent at the Wil­liam Mor­ris agency and said Cosby drugged and mo­lested her dur­ing a lunch meet­ing in Los An­ge­les in 1996.

In a set­back for the de­fense, O’Neill has ruled that Cosby’s dam­ag­ing de­po­si­tion from Con­stand’s 2005 law­suit can be aired in court. Cosby, over four days, de­scribed a string of ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fairs and li­aisons with young women, often af­ter he gave them drugs or al­co­hol. He called them con­sen­sual.

Cosby, once known as “Amer­ica’s Dad” for his top-rated fam­ily sit­com, The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, ap­peared re­laxed in his lat­est court ap­pear­ance Mon­day, laugh­ing with aides dur­ing breaks.

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