Elusive witness still a no-show at Cosby trial

Bill Cosby departs after his sexual assault trial, Friday, April 20, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

Bill Cosby departs after his sexual assault trial, Friday, April 20, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

Where in the world is Sheri Williams?

That’s a question bedeviling Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers in the waning days the TV star’s criminal retrial on sex assault charges.

The defense team has been trying to get Williams on the witness stand, but a private investigator’s eight subpoena attempts that would compel her to testify have failed to reach the Charlotte, North Carolina, resident.

Private investigator Tim Reid is expected to take the stand Monday to testify about his unsuccessful attempts at serving Williams.

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Defense attorneys want Williams — once a close friend of chief accuser Andrea Constand — to talk about how Constand willingly participated in a pyramid business scheme. According to the defense team, Williams also will be able to testify that Constand knew Cosby was romantically pursuing her. Constand has testified she was not aware of that.

In lieu of jurors hearing the elusive Williams herself, Cosby’s lawyers want to read portions of a deposition she gave as part of Constand’s 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby.

Defense lawyers argued Friday that excluding the testimony would violate Cosby’s rights. They said it would be only fair after the jury heard his own statements in a deposition interview connected to the same civil suit.

Judge Steven O’Neill plans to rule Monday on whether to let jurors hear excerpts of Williams’ interview. Friday, however, he seemed wary and said state law would not permit such testimony.

Prosecutors added that the inability to cross-examine Williams — as well as allowing the defense to select only what it wants from the deposition — would bias the jury.

Defense lawyers have insisted that Constand is a “con artist” who planned to shake down Cosby by claiming he assualted her to get a multimillion-dollar settlement. And they have said that Williams could offer proof of Constand’s desperation for money.

In 2002, Constand sent emails soliciting donations for the alleged pyramid scheme, and she told the jury she participated only to help Williams, her close friend.

On the stand, Constand said she “didn’t know anything about” the online business, explaining she simply copied and pasted language Williams had sent her about the operation to solicit others.

Defense lawyers Friday also called Cosby’s publicist and travel manager, who testified that Cosby’s private jet logs demonstrate that the legendary entertainer had engagements around the country in January 2004, when Constand said Cosby molested her at his home in Cheltenham.

The precise date of the alleged attack has been in question, and Cosby’s lawyers have suggested that it may have happened before January, placing the incident beyond Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for sexual assault claims.

In what could have been a searing attack, Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau tried to question a Canadian friend of Constand about “extensive drug use,” including copious marijuana use and an “addiction” to “magic mushrooms.

Mesereau was hoping this testimony would rebut the prosecution’s portrayal of Constand as someone who carried on a holistic lifestyle and avoided any kind of drugs at all cost.

“They’re trying to suggest she’s an innocent babe in the woods,” Mesereau said. “’That I’m a purist person. I’m naïve when it comes to chemical intake,’ he said, describing the way he sees Constand has been depicted in court. “It’s basically a false character that has been presented to this jury.”

The defense plans to call a handful of witnesses on Monday before prosecutors and defense lawyers deliver closing arguments.

Jury deliberations are set to begin early next week.

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