Last day of pretrial hearings before Bill Cosby’s retrial

The court heard arguments about whether Judge Steven T. O’Neill should allow Cosby’s prior deposition, on top of the five accusers that will testify at his retrial set to begin April 9.

Bill Cosby (right) walks into the Montgomery County Courthouse on March 30. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / FILE PHOTO

NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Bill Cosby appeared in court for the last day of pretrial hearings before his retrial, which is set to begin no earlier than April 9.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill heard arguments from the defense and prosecution about whether the jury can hear Cosby’s unsealed deposition and its mentions of Quaaludes, a muscle relaxant and sedative.

The court heard arguments about including an earlier testimony by the former trustee, in which he admits he has knowledge about Quaaludes and that he has given them to women in the past. The portion of the deposition including Quaaludes is one of the parts that tripped up jurors during five days and 52 hours of deliberations before a mistrial was declared last June.

Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan argued the deposition has a “critical aspect” and Cosby admits that he intentionally provided women with the drug so he could have sex with them.

But the deposition is not an admittance, Defense Attorney Becky James said, and will be “more prejudicial” because O’Neill is allowing five accusers to take the stand.

“We’re talking about a trial that will be dominated by these ‘prior bad acts,’ not the incident in question,” James added.

James also stated she’s worried the jury will make an inaccurate connection to the incident between Cosby and Andrea Constand, a former Temple employee and the main accuser for Cosby’s retrial, and the details of his deposition, because the drugs used in the alleged assault are not Quaaludes.

Cosby alleged in the 2005 deposition that he gave Constand several Benadryl pills from his own reserve to help stress in her neck and back, but had given Quaaludes to women in the past.

“There’s a vast difference between Benadryl and Quaaludes, although Benadryl may be an ingredient in Quaaludes,” she said.

O’Neill seemed to indicate he may not allow the deposition because of the five accusers he is allowing in the retrial. In June’s criminal trial, the deposition and only one accuser were allowed in court arguments.

James also submitted to the record that “Believe and Support Survivors” coffee cup sleeves were in the courthouse coffee shop, which goes against the defense’s argument to ban T-shirts, buttons and other items with slogans at trial. The defense argued earlier this month in court papers that these slogans could influence jurors, the Associated Press reported.

As of court closing on Friday afternoon, O’Neill had not ruled on whether he would allow testimony by Marguerite Jackson, an academic adviser in Boyer College of Music and Dance who alleges that Constand told her accusing a man of sexual assault could benefit her financially, into the upcoming retrial. O’Neill said he’d decide by the end of the day Friday, but it’s now likely he will rule on Monday.

O’Neill is likely to rule whether he’ll allow Constand’s civil suit settlement information into evidence before trial as well. If O’Neill allows the 2005 civil settlement which has never been made public Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor may be called as a witness, O’Neill said on Thursday.

Both teams also presented arguments about allowing testimony from Constand’s mother, Gianna, who alleges Cosby admitted to the assault of her daughter in 2004, and about allowing 14 auxiliary witnesses to corroborate the five accusers’ stories.

O’Neill will not rule on the deposition nor if he’ll allow testimony from Gianna Constand into evidence until trial.

Jury selection for the trial will begin on Monday. About 180 people served summons for the preliminary examinations, and 120 people will be called to the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday.

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