Civil settlements, Quaaludes, ‘Spanish fly’ still on the table for Cosby’s criminal trial [updated]

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     Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Monday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Bill Cosby arrives for a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Monday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    An excerpt from a comedic memoir called “Childhood.” Civil deposition testimony about procurring intoxicants given under oath.

    Both types of evidence were up for debate Monday in a pretrial hearing for Bill Cosby’s upcoming criminal trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

    “All they’re trying to do is smear” Cosby, said defense attorney Brian McMonagle of this evidence. “All of a sudden, there’s this innuendo. ’70s. Quaaludes.”

    In civil proceedings, Cosby has said he obtained Quaaludes from a doctor to give women before sex. That evidence, as well as details from a civil settlement with the complainant and a 1991 memoir in which Cosby wrote about giving the faux-aphrodisiac “Spanish fly” to girls as a teenager, could appear during his trial in early June.

    Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said civil deposition settlement documents “show the defendant’s efforts to conceal himself of any criminal liability.” She referred to a section of the civil settlement with the complainant in which Cosby’s lawyers requested that Constand not cooperate with any future law enforcement activity related to the alleged assault. According to Feden, Cosby also requested Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, destroy civil deposition testimony.

    Monday’s hearing was set to discuss these and other pretrial motions, which included requests by the defense to question potential jurors about what they’ve absorbed from media coverage of the case.

    Rather than putting a lid on what can be considered during the trial, “we will probably have another pretrial hearing,” said Judge Steven T. O’Neill.

    While more argumentation than decision-making occurred at Monday’s hearing, some logistical details of the upcoming trial did surface. The trial could run about two weeks and jurors would be sequestered in Montgomery County for the duration, according to O’Neill, who also said he would be leading the in-person jury interviews.

    After a lengthy, private conference with attorneys in the afternoon, O’Neill ended the day by putting all of the motions to exclude or include evidence under advisement, and issuing a 15-day deadline on new motions. He did not grant the defense’s requests to be able to exclude more seven jurors without giving a reason, called a peremptory strike.

    In December 2015, the Montgomery County district attorney’s office charged Cosby with criminal sexual assault stemming from a 2004 encounter with Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University women’s basketball program.

    In the complaint, Constand alleged Cosby drugged her before engaging in unwanted sexual contact. More than 50 women have come forward with similar allegations; only Constand’s claims have resulted in criminal charges.

    Defense attorneys argue the other women’s stories have tainted public opinion against their client. Of the 13 women prosecutors requested to testify on their alleged sexual assaults, only one woman, known in court documents as “Victim 6” has been permitted.

    Cosby has maintained the encounter with Constand was consensual.

    On Monday, defense attorney Angela Agrusa argued that “astoundingly, absurdly pervasive, biased and even hateful” publicity about of sexual assault allegations against the comedian has made it impossible to pick an impartial jury using normal protocols.

    “You cannot walk into a grocery store, a convenience store” without seeing headlines about the case, some of which call him a rapist, said Agrusa. The questions, mailed to potential jurors, would allow them to answer questions about bias privately and therefore more honestly than they would during later in-person jury selection interviews, argued Agrusa.

    O’Neill said he preferred to stick with the standard, 16-question form used in Montgomery County, but that questions pertinent to the defense could be included in voir dire, the in-person jury questioning.

    Asking a jury what they have read about the allegations against Cosby provides “too much opportunity for potential taint,” said District Attorney Kevin Steele, who argued the suggestion could lead jurors to read about the case.

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