Saturday 21 April 2018

Bill Cosby’s quaalude use at issue as lawyers spar ahead of trial

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday as the 80-year-old faces charges he drugged and molested Andrea Constand in 2004.

Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case (Matt Slocum/AP)
Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case (Matt Slocum/AP)

By Michael R Sisak, Associated Press

Prosecutors and lawyers for Bill Cosby have sparred over whether jurors at his sexual assault retrial will hear lurid deposition testimony from the comedian about giving quaaludes to a string of women before sex.

District Attorney Kevin Steele asked a judge during a pretrial hearing in suburban Philadelphia to let them read the testimony in to the record at Cosby’s April 9 sex assault retrial, just as it was at the first one that ended in a hung jury last year.

Mr Steele said the testimony, along with those of up to five additional accusers not allowed to testify at the first trial, bolsters their plan to portray Cosby as a serial predator.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday as 80-year-old Cosby faces charges he drugged and molested former Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Cosby’s lawyers say the testimony is irrelevant because there is no evidence he gave Ms Constand the drug.

His lawyers argue prosecutors are trying to use the deposition and expected testimony from the additional accusers to distract jurors from the case at hand.

Ms Constand, who has waived her right of anonymity, says Cosby gave her three blue pills.

His lawyers say quaaludes never came in that colour with the comedian contending he gave her the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl.

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Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele walks to the courtroom (Dominick Reuter/Pool Photo/AP)

Any relevance that Cosby’s quaalude testimony might have, “is far outweighed by the unfair prejudice, confusion of issues and misleading of the jury that would result from its admission,” the comedian’s lawyers argued in court papers.

Cosby’s lawyers are also counting on Judge Steven O’Neill to make rulings critical to their plan to portray the accuser as a greedy liar who framed the comedian to get rich.

Mr O’Neill could rule as early as Friday on whether the defence can call a witness who claims Ms Constand spoke about falsely accusing a celebrity before going to police.

The judge also will decide how much jurors will hear about Cosby’s financial settlement with Ms Constand. They say the amount will show “just how greedy” she was.

Prosecutors said the theory Ms Constand wanted to set Cosby up is undermined by his testimony in a 2005 deposition that she only visited his home when invited and that he gave her pills without her asking.

Cosby admitted in the testimony he gave quaaludes to a 19-year-old before having sex in the 1970s.

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Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill (Dominick Reuter/Pool Photo/AP)

His lawyers argued the lawsuit and payment were the direct result of her scheming against him.

Prosecutors said Cosby’s negotiators wanted to bar Constand from ever cooperating with law enforcement.

Mr O’Neill presided over Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year, and remained on the case after rejecting the defence’s assertions on Thursday he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims.

In arguing for the judge to step aside, Cosby’s lawyers pointed to a $100 donation made in his wife’s name to an organisation that gave money to a group planning a protest outside of the retrial.

Mr O’Neill said the contribution was made 13 months ago by the department where his wife works at the University of Pennsylvania and that Cosby’s lawyers held an antiquated view of marriage where spouses must agree on everything.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday and jurors will once again be sequestered at a hotel.

Opening statements and testimony are not expected to get underway until April 9 at the earliest.

Press Association

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