Bill Cosby Back In Court For Pretrial Hearings
Bill Cosby is back in court for a series of hearings to determine what evidence will be admitted or suppressed at his trial in 2017 and whether the criminal charges against him should be dismissed.
Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill heard defense arguments on whether Cosby’s due process rights were violated, the delay in bringing charges against him, the promise from former District Attorney, whether the 13 accusers (404(b) witnesses) should be allowed to testify at trial and whether Cosby’s deposition from the settled civil suit with Andrea Constand is admissible as evidence.
In October, Cosby’s lawyers filed a motion seeking the dismissal of felony charges brought against the comedian in 2015 based on deprivation of Cosby’s due process rights. The motion stated that the then District Attorney Bruce Castor rejected Andrea Constand’s sexual assault allegations in 2005, claiming there was insufficient credible and admissible evidence to bring charges against Cosby.
In 2005, while Constand’s claims were being investigated 13 accusers surfaced and authorities investigated their claims, interviewed as many as 40 witnesses, the Commonwealth concluded that the charges by Andrea Constand were far too weak and the decades-old claims of the other accusers were far too unreliable to be admissible.
Castor delegated investigation of the other allegations to First Assistant District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman (now Judge Ferman, Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas).
When asked about the accusations against William H. Cosby, Jr., in February 2005, Ferman stated, “Generally, an accusation from over 30 years ago is not going to be considered admissible in court or relevant to an investigation.”
Constand filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby, settled in 2006, agreeing to forever release her right to initiate a criminal complaint against Cosby in any jurisdiction in exchange for settlement money.
July 2015, after Cosby’s 2006 sealed civil lawsuit deposition was wrongfully unsealed by a federal judge, the then District Attorney Risa Ferman reopened the case. Cosby was arrested on Dec 30, 2015, one month before the 12-year statute of limitations would have expired from the 2004 Constand claims. Cosby is facing three counts of aggravated indecent assault and his facing up to 30 years in prison based on Constand’s allegations that he allegedly drugged and digitally penetrated her with his finger in 2004 at his home in Cheltenham.
Today, in court, Defense attorney Brian McMonagle argued that Cosby had then-District Attorney Bruce Castor’s word and needed nothing more to rely upon for the promise he would not incriminate himself by sitting for the civil deposition.
“We know Mr. Castor gave his word because quite frankly, the evidence shows that,” McMonagle said. “We didn’t need it in writing because we had his word. And when you have somebody’s word, it should be enough.” “I don’t want DAs making promises that they don’t later keep,” McMonagle said. “That strikes at the heart of fundamental unfairness.”
Judge O’Neill asked whether there was any other evidence of a promise, McMonagle said there had been another witness, Cosby’s former lawyer Walter Phillips, who died in 2015.
“I want to go back in time to bring Mr. Phillips in here to testify,” McMonagle said. “The best witness to this issue is dead.”
Cosby attorneys McMonagle and Angela Agrusa wrote in a motion on Monday, that the Commonwealth is attempting to “try its case against Mr. Cosby based on accusations of third parties- the alleged “prior bad acts” witnesses.”
Cosby’s attorneys also stated the Commonwealth partnered with famed media attorney Gloria Allred (who before approaching current District Attorney Kevin Steele sought to get Mr. Cosby to pay her clients $100 million).
“The commonwealth is asking a jury . . . to hear 14 trials in one case, and to pass judgment on claims about events that occurred outside the commonwealth, across the country, decades and decades earlier.”
In the motion, Cosby’s attorneys point out that there has never been a shred of physical evidence to support such claims, the accusers’ recollections are unreliable, their accounts to their claims influenced by media coverage and their statements too inconsistent to be believed.
The pre-trial hearings will continue tomorrow the court will deal with Cosby’s motion to dismiss based on the 12-year delay between the encounter with Constand and Cosby’s arrest, and the possible prejudicial effect of that delay.
Cosby, 79, has denied all accusations and pled not guilty to three counts of felony sexual assault. Cosby is facing up to 30 years and remains free on $1 million bail trial begins in June 2017.