Lawyers clash at Cosby hear­ing

Fight over use of ac­cusers’ names

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS BY MARYCLAIRE DALE AND MICHAEL R. SISAK

NORRISTOWN, PA. | Threat­en­ing to call in sher­iff’s deputies, a judge re­peat­edly ad­mon­ished lawyers on both sides of Bill Cosby’s sex­ual as­sault case Tues­day dur­ing a high-stakes hear­ing that will de­ter­mine whether pros­e­cu­tors can call as many as 13 ac­cusers as trial wit­nesses.

Mont­gomery County Judge Steven O’Neill twice warned the lawyers to main­tain deco­rum af­ter court­room shout­ing matches that cen­tered on the de­fense team’s prac­tice of pub­li­ciz­ing the names of the women ac­cus­ing the co­me­dian of sex­ual as­sault.

Pros­e­cu­tors want to be al­lowed to put some of the ac­cusers on the wit­ness stand, a key part of their strat­egy to show that a sex­ual en­counter at Mr. Cosby’s sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia home in 2004 fit the 79-year-old en­ter­tainer’s decades­long pat­tern of drug­ging and mo­lest­ing women.

Mr. Cosby’s lawyers want the ac­cusers barred from tes­ti­fy­ing at the spring trial, at­tack­ing their cred­i­bil­ity and rel­e­vance.

The hear­ing, ex­pected to last two days, was testy from the start.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin Steele clashed with Cosby lawyer Brian McMona­gle over the de­fense’s in­sis­tence on iden­ti­fy­ing ac­cusers by name in pub­lic doc­u­ments and a court hear­ing. Mr. Steele sug­gested that Mr. Cosby’s lawyers were pub­li­ciz­ing them in an at­tempt to in­tim­i­date the women.

Mr. McMona­gle said many of the women had al­ready gone pub­lic with their al­le­ga­tions.

“These are wit­nesses in a trial. They are not chil­dren,” he ar­gued.

Judge O’Neill ul­ti­mately ruled that Mr. Cosby’s lawyers could iden­tify 11 of the women by name since they al­ready had told their sto­ries pub­licly. He said two of the women have re­mained out of the spot­light and shouldn’t be iden­ti­fied in court.

Later, Mr. Steele blew up at the de­fense over the po­si­tion­ing of a pro­jec­tion screen, say­ing Mr. Cosby’s lawyers had it placed so the women’s names would be seen by dozens of re­porters in the court­room gallery. He again ac­cused the de­fense of wit­ness in­tim­i­da­tion.

Mr. McMona­gle said court­room staff po­si­tioned the screen, but he agreed to re­move ac­cusers’ names from a planned pre­sen­ta­tion.

Judge O’Neill said he’d be forced to call in sher­iff’s deputies if the lawyers couldn’t con­duct them­selves prop­erly.

The case be­gan a decade ago when Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity em­ployee An­drea Con­stand filed a po­lice com­plaint against Mr. Cosby, her friend and men­tor, over an en­counter at his home. A pros­e­cu­tor at the time de­clined to file charges.

But au­thor­i­ties re­opened the case last year af­ter scores of women raised sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions and af­ter Mr. Cosby’s dam­ag­ing de­po­si­tion tes­ti­mony from Ms. Con­stand’s law­suit be­came pub­lic. The trial judge last week said the de­po­si­tion was fair game at trial, arm­ing pros­e­cu­tors with Mr. Cosby’s tes­ti­mony about his affairs with young women, his use of quaaludes as a se­duc­tion tool and his ver­sion of the sex­ual en­counter with Ms. Con­stand the night in ques­tion.

Mr. Cosby’s lawyers had hoped to ques­tion the women in per­son, but Judge O’Neill re­jected the idea.

Some of the women had on­go­ing friend­ships or ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships with Mr. Cosby — known as “Amer­ica’s Dad” for his top-rated fam­ily sit­com, “The Cosby Show,” which ran from 1984 to 1992 — while others knew him for only a few days af­ter meet­ing him on a plane or at a casino.

Some, like Ms. Con­stand, took pills know­ingly — she thought it was an herbal drug; he later said it was Be­nadryl — while others be­lieve he slipped some­thing stronger in their drinks.

Mr. McMona­gle has pe­ti­tioned to ask each ac­cuser as many as 80 ques­tions. The de­fense also has ques­tioned the women’s mo­ti­va­tion, not­ing many are clients of celebrity lawyer Glo­ria Allred, who has sug­gested Mr. Cosby should put up a $100 mil­lion set­tle­ment fund for po­ten­tial sex­ual as­sault and defama­tion claims.

Ms. Allred told The As­so­ci­ated Press last week that her clients have a duty to tes­tify if the court wants to hear from them. She called the de­fense’s dis­missal of their ac­counts “out of con­text or just plain wrong.”

Judge O’Neill must walk a fine line in weigh­ing their tes­ti­mony, given a 2015 state Supreme Court rul­ing that threw out a Ro­man Catholic Church of­fi­cial’s child-en­dan­ger­ment con­vic­tion be­cause the Philadel­phia trial judge let too many priest-abuse vic­tims tes­tify about the al­leged church cover-up.

Mr. Cosby greeted se­cu­rity of­fi­cers with a joke be­fore Tues­day’s hear­ing, quip­ping, “Don’t tase me, bro,” as they wanded him on his way into court.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Threat­en­ing to call in sher­iff’s deputies, a judge re­peat­edly ad­mon­ished lawyers on both sides of Bill Cosby’s sex­ual as­sault case Tues­day dur­ing a high-stakes hear­ing that will de­ter­mine whether pros­e­cu­tors can call as many as 13 ac­cusers as trial wit­nesses.

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