NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors and lawyers for Bill Cosby sparred Friday 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 into 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.
Steele said the testimony, along with the testimony of up to five additional accusers, bolsters their plan to portray Cosby as a serial predator. Those women weren’t allowed to testify at the first trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday as the 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 — who 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 — say the testimony is irrelevant because there’s no evidence he gave Constand the drug.
His lawyers also argued in court papers Friday that the retrial should be postponed if prosecutors are allowed to bring in more witnesses in a bid to bolster the accounts of the five additional accusers who’ve been allowed to testify.
They argued that the 14 proposed supporting witnesses, including celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky and book publisher Judith Regan, are irrelevant and would only further confuse and distract the jury.
Cosby’s lawyers argued none of the potential witnesses were present when the alleged assaults occurred, and many weren’t told about them by the accusers until years later.
Allowing the five additional accusers to testify has already created an “unconstitutionally defective and unfair trial,” Cosby’s lawyers said, adding that O’Neill has shared their concern that letting more witnesses take the stand could devolve the retrial into a series of mini-trials.
Arguing over Cosby’s deposition, Cosby’s lawyers argued prosecutors are trying to use that and expected testimony from the additional accusers to distract jurors from the case at hand.
Constand says Cosby gave her three blue pills. His lawyers say quaaludes never came in that color. The comedian contends he gave her the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl.
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.
Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan argued Cosby’s deposition testimony is important because it shows he had an awareness of the effects that central nervous system depressants, such as quaaludes, have on women, and it shows his admitted intent for using such drugs.
“The man sitting right over there said these things and they were typed down,” Ryan said.
It’s not clear how soon O’Neill will rule on all of the issues, but he said he will rule Friday on whether the defense can call a witness who claims Constand spoke about falsely accusing a celebrity before going to police.
The judge also has to decide how much jurors will hear about Cosby’s financial settlement with Constand. His lawyers say the amount will show “just how greedy” she was.
Prosecutors said the theory that 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.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that 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.
O’Neill presided over Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.
O’Neill remained on the case after rejecting the defense’s assertions on Thursday that he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims.
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.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
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