Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cosby testified in '05 'on condition he had immunity from trial'

Michael Sisak

Published 04/02/2016 | 02:30

Bill Cosby, right, smiles as he arrives for a court appearance yesterday in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mel Evans/AP Photo
Bill Cosby, right, smiles as he arrives for a court appearance yesterday in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mel Evans/AP Photo

Bill Cosby's top lawyer last night said that he never would have let the millionaire comedian testify in a 2005 lawsuit if he thought that the star could still face sexual assault charges in the matter.

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Lawyer Jack Schmitt testified that Cosby's legal team considered the criminal case "irrevocably concluded" after a suburban Philadelphia district attorney told them he was closing the investigation into charges Cosby drugged and violated Andrea Constand.

Mr Schmitt said Cosby later sat for a deposition in Constand's civil suit over four days and never once invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"We did that knowing the criminal matter had been concluded and could not be reopened," Mr Schmitt said.

Mr Schmitt took the stand on Day 2 of a bid by the TV star's lawyers to get the sexual assault charges against Cosby thrown out. They say then-District Attorney Bruce Castor gave Cosby immunity from prosecution in the case a decade ago.

Cosby (78) was arrested and charged in the Constand case in December by Castor's successors, who reopened the investigation after portions of the deposition were unsealed last summer and dozens of women came forward to say he assaulted them.

If criminal charges were still a possibility, "we certainly wouldn't let him sit for a deposition," Mr Schmitt said.

Cosby is accused of drugging and violating the former Temple University athletic department employee at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004.

The TV star known as 'America's Dad' could get 10 years in prison if convicted.

In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged obtaining quaaludes to give to women he wanted to seduce. He also admitted he reached into Constand's pants but said it was consensual.

The current DA, Kevin Steele, has argued that Mr Castor's 2005 decision not to produce is not binding on current prosecutors.

It was never put in writing in a legal document. The only written evidence of a no-prosecution pledge came in an opaque press release sent out by Castor.

Under questioning by Mr Steele, Mr Schmitt acknowledged that he relied on both the press release and assurances that Mr Castor gave a decade ago to Cosby lawyer Walter Phillips, who is now dead. "There was no other written agreement," Schmitt said.

Judge Steven T O'Neill said he hoped to rule soon on the request to throw out the charges.

Earlier yesterday, supporters yelled "We love you, Bill!" as the comedian made his way slowly into the courthouse with assistants either side of him. Cosby uses a cane, and his eyesight is said to be deteriorating.

On Tuesday, Castor was the star witness for the defence at the pre-trial hearing.

Castor testified that he believed Constand's story but found serious flaws in the case in 2005 and declined to bring charges. He said that as district attorney, he considered the decision final and binding "for all time" on his successors.

Castor said that in ruling out any prosecution of Cosby, he hoped to prod the TV star to testify in the lawsuit.

"I was hopeful that I had made Ms Constand a millionaire," he said. Constand eventually settled for an undisclosed sum.

"If there was an agreement, why didn't you make that agreement in writing?" the judge asked Castor.

Destroying

"It was unnecessary because I concluded there was no way the case would get any better," he said. He also said Cosby was afraid such an agreement would make him look bad.

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them since the 1960s, destroying his good-guy image as America's Dad. But the statute of limitations for prosecuting him has run out in nearly every instance. This is the only case in which he has been charged.

Castor defended his decision not to bring charges, citing among other things Constand's yearlong delay in reporting the allegations, her continued contact with Cosby, and suggestions that she and her mother might have tried to extort the TV star.

Irish Independent

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