NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Comedian Bill Cosby’s defence team urged a Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday to bar 19 women accusing him of sexual assault from testifying at his upcoming retrial on charges he abused a former friend.
A smiling, laughing Cosby arrived at court in Norristown, Pennsylvania, minutes before the scheduled start of the second day of a pretrial hearing.
He hugged his defence lawyers, who aimed to convince Judge Steven O’Neill that Cosby would be denied a fair trial if the multiple accusers were permitted to take the witness stand in the retrial, slated to begin with jury selection on March 29.
Cosby, 80, is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, 44, a former administrator of the women’s basketball team at his alma mater, Temple University, at the television star’s home near Philadelphia between Dec. 30, 2003, and Jan. 20, 2004.
The actor/comedian, best known as the wise and witty father on TV’s “The Cosby Show,” has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying that any sexual encounter was consensual.
Cosby’s first criminal trial ended in a mistrial in June when jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the same court.
Before the first trial, prosecutors asked Judge O’Neill to allow 13 of the 19 women to testify against Cosby, but he allowed only one to do so because, in general, a defendant’s history is not admissible as evidence that he or she committed a particular crime.
The Cosby case qualifies as an exception, prosecutors told the judge on Monday, on the first day of the pre-trial hearing, because the way he abused the 19 women was repetitive and consistent.
“He did it 19 times before he did it to Andrea Constand,” Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe said.
O’Neill said that because of the volume of evidence he must review, it was doubtful he would decide on Tuesday whether to allow testimony from the 19 additional accusers.
He said it was possible he could rule on Tuesday on a defence request to call as a witness at trial a former co-worker of Constand who told prosecutors that Cosby’s accuser said she could earn money by making a false sexual assault allegation against a famous person.
Cosby has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 50 women over several decades. The Pennsylvania case is the only one in which he has faced criminal charges.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky