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Friday 21 September 2018

Topless protester charges at Bill Cosby as sex assault retrial begins

The 80-year-old comedian faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

A protester is detained as Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial (Corey Perrine/AP)
A protester is detained as Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial (Corey Perrine/AP)

By Michael R Sisak, Associated Press

A topless protester with Women’s Lives Matter written on her body jumped a barricade and got within a few feet of Bill Cosby as the comedian walked into a courthouse for the start of his sexual assault retrial.

The unidentified woman ran in front of Cosby towards a bank of TV cameras but was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies and led away in handcuffs in suburban Philadelphia.

Cosby seemed startled by the commotion as half a dozen protesters chanted at him.

The disruption came ahead of opening statements, though a delay was expected while the judge sorted through allegations raised late on Friday that a juror was overheard saying he thought Cosby was guilty.

Cosby’s lawyers asked that the man be questioned and removed from the case.

Prosecutors have lined up a parade of accusers to make the case that the man revered as “America’s Dad” lived a double life as one of Hollywood’s biggest predators.

He is fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy: attacking Andrea Constand as a greedy liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.

Cosby’s first trial last spring ended with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show drugged and molested Ms Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

The 80-year-old comedian, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown (Corey Perrine/AP)

After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge Steven O’Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Ms Constand’s allegations.

This time, Judge O’Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers give evidence – including model Janice Dickinson – as they attempt to show Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women.

The judge allowed just one other accuser to give evidence last time.

In another difference, the judge is this time letting Cosby’s legal team call as a witness a former co-worker of Ms Constand’s at Temple University who said Ms Constand spoke of setting up a “high-profile person” so she could sue and enjoy a big payday.

Ms Constand’s lawyer has said the co-worker is lying.

The judge also decided the jury can hear the answer to one of the biggest questions hanging over the case: How much did Cosby pay Ms Constand to settle her lawsuit against him more than a decade ago? The two sides agreed at the first trial not to mention the lawsuit.

Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case, said the jury will learn “just how greedy” Ms Constand was.

In a twist, the judge hinted that he might not allow jurors to hear Cosby’s lurid deposition testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex.

He said he would rule on it during the trial.

Cosby testified in 2005 and 2006 as part of Ms Constand’s lawsuit.

Press Association

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