A Montgomery County judge wants Bill Cosby’s felony sexual assault case to go to trial no later than June 5.
Addressing the expectation that defendants be tried within a year of charges, Judge Steven O’Neill said that the one-year mark in this case is not realistic due to the “unique nature of how it arrived at this court.”
O’Neill presided Tuesday at a pretrial conference in Norristown, Pennsylvania, attempting to streamline a case that has blossomed motions and appeals nearly every month by setting deadlines for various legal questions.
Wearing a seersucker sport jacket and brightly patterned necktie, the 79-year-old comedian appeared to stare into space to the left of the judge for much of the explanation of court procedure. Having shed most of his counsel last month, Cosby had only defense attorney Brian McMonagle by his side as official representation. Attorney Angela Agrusa also appeared with the entertainer, but is not yet recognized by the court as his counsel.
The legal question judge O’Neill had hoped to resolve by the end of the pretrial conference was whether a surreptitiously recorded phone call between the complainant’s mother and Cosby could be used as evidence at trial. During the call, Cosby asked Gianna Constand if he was being recorded, to which she replied, “No, not at all. I have a parrot.”
After listening to the crackly recording, O’Neill made no decision on whether it will be admissible.
An hour before the hearing, the Montgomery County district attorney’s office filed a 68-page motion detailing accounts of 13 other women with accusations of sexual assault against the entertainer. Prosecutors said this testimony illuminates what they call “the extraordinary nature of this pattern” of sexual assault. The women, who are not named in the document, date back decades.
Cosby’s lawyers are expected to dispute that evidence, as they have filed motions to suppress testimony from a 2005 civil deposition the comedian gave.
During the hearing, defense attorneys also said they will request the case be moved to a different county in Pennsylvania, as well as file a motion alleging their client’s constitutional right to a speedy trial have been violated and thus charges should be dismissed.
Following the hearing, Cosby’s attorneys gave an impromptu press conference on the courthouse steps, accusing the media of biasing the public and court officials against their client.
“To accept the assumption of guilt by numbers or guilt by volume is really the same thing as accepting the assumption of guilt before innocence,” said Agrusa. “For Mr. Cosby, this is the same thing as the ‘shoot now, ask questions later’ approach to judicial justice that you see in the streets.”
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault resulting from a sexual encounter with Andrea Constand in 2004. Then her mentor, Cosby has maintained that the sexual contact in his Cheltenham home was consensual.
The following January, Constand approached police in Toronto, where she lives, to file a complaint. Montgomery County authorities investigated her claims, but then-District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to press charges, citing “insufficient, credible and admissible evidence.”
In the intervening years, evidence from a civil case filed by Constand, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 60 women relating similar stories, emerged and reinvigorated interest in prosecution.
O’Neill intends to hold subsequent hearings as he decides on legal matters including what he will allow as evidence in the case.