Bill Cosby appears in court for first day of pretrial hearings

The prosecution argued to include interviews from more than a dozen of Cosby’s accusers.

Bill Cosby is escorted out of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday after the first of two days of pretrial hearings for his upcoming criminal trial. | KELLY BRENNAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Prosecutors submitted interviews and one deposition from Bill Cosby’s 19 additional accusers into evidence at the former trustee’s pretrial conference at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill said he will not rule on whether to include the 19 accusers’ interviews for the remainder of the pretrial conferences – which will continue on Tuesday.

In a two-hour presentation, Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe argued that the court should include 19 “prior bad acts” that are “significantly similar” to former Temple employee Andrea Constand’s account of her assault. The “prior bad acts” span four decades.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He allegedly drugged and assaulted Constand in January 2004 in his Montgomery County home. He was serving on Temple’s Board of Trustees at the time.

The 30-40 pages of the prior bad acts submitted to the court on Monday include narratives from women who were between 17 and 34 years old at the time of their alleged assaults. When Cosby allegedly assaulted Constand in 2004, she was 30, while Cosby was 66. The prosecution said Cosby has a pattern of allegedly assaulting younger women.

Jappe compared Constand’s story of sexual assault to that of the 19 women who came forward. Each woman, all in an investigative interview or deposition, recalled similar experiences of assault, including being given substances by Cosby, which made them feel “frozen,” “woozy” or entirely “blacked out.”

The defense will argue against this motion Tuesday morning.

O’Neill raised concerns about the potential unfair prejudice Cosby could face if all 19 accusers are allowed to testify at his sexual assault trial, which is scheduled for early April. O’Neill denied the prosecution’s request to submit those testimonies of “prior bad acts” before Cosby’s first sexual assault trial in June 2017.

The prosecution argued on Monday that all 19 accusations are necessary to show Cosby’s uninterrupted pattern of alleged sexual assault and limit the defense from attacking Constand’s credibility during the trial.

“You’re going to see a continuous pattern the defendant employed over four decades,” Jappe told the court on Monday.

O’Neill also denied the defense’s several attempts to dismiss the charges against Cosby of aggravated indecent sexual assault.

During the hearing, O’Neill repeatedly reminded the court that this is a new trial for Cosby, whose June trial for the same charges ended in a mistrial.

Cosby’s Nevada-based attorney Kathleen Bliss argued that the prosecution mishandled the testimony of Marguerite Jackson, an academic adviser at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. In a conversation with Constand around the time of the alleged assault, Jackson alleged Constand told her she could falsely accuse someone of sexual assault to extort money from them.

Bliss argued Cosby could not get a fair trial because the prosecution did not investigate Jackson’s claim properly and should dismiss the trial. O’Neill denied the motion, stating that jurors should decide the legitimacy of Jackson’s testimony in a trial rather than a pretrial conference.

O’Neill later denied a motion from the defense to dismiss the case based on phone and business records of Cosby and Constand that they said prove the alleged sexual assault could not have occurred in January 2004.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele argued that Cosby’s new representation from outside the state of Pennsylvania should not be allowed to defend Cosby, arguing they didn’t entirely follow the Pennsylvania rules of professional conduct since beginning to represent Cosby in the last eight months.

Steele said Cosby’s lawyers wrongfully claimed the prosecution defied court orders and attempted to suppress a deposition.

“You can’t even say misstatements, they’re flat-out lies,” Steele said.

O’Neill will allow Cosby’s new representation — Bliss, Philadelphia attorney Lane Vines and Los Angeles attorney Tom Mesereau, who helped acquit Michael Jackson of child molestation charges in 2005 — to defend him in his upcoming criminal trial, but said they are “on notice” if they work unethically.

O’Neill also offered condolences to Cosby, whose daughter Ensa Cosby died at the age of 44 last Monday from renal disease.

The court will meet again on Tuesday to consider motions about the use of a 2005 civil suit between Cosby and Constand and possible arguments around using Jackson. It will also hear the defense’s reply to the prosecution’s motion to allow the interviews from 19 women to be included in April’s trial, despite O’Neil’s decision to not make a ruling on the subject.

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