After a ruling to continue the criminal case against comedian Bill Cosby came down Wednesday night, it seemed that the case was picking up speed.
Now, Andrew Wyatt, publicist for Cosby, said the comedian’s defense team is seeking further delays.
“We don’t have a timeline, but we are going to appeal,” he said, after the decision by Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill to let the case proceed.
Late last year, Cosby was charged with sexual assault, stemming from an alleged incident at his home in Cheltenham in 2004. During a visit to his home in January of that year, Andrea Constand, then an employee at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee, said he gave her pills to help her “relax.” She said the drugs made her unresponsive, and she woke up later with her clothes askew. In his deposition for a later civil case, Cosby said the two had a consensual sexual encounter.
Constand made a formal complaint to police in 2005, after which then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor decided not to press criminal charges. He announced his decision in a carefully worded press release, which he contends protected Cosby from ever facing criminal charges related to Constand’s case.
On those grounds, Cosby’s lawyers had been trying to get the charges against the famous entertainer dismissed. O’Neill ruled against their argument.
As Wyatt indicated, that decision may not be final. In general, appeals happen after a case has been decided, not before criminal proceedings even begin.
“Procedurally, substantively, from every single aspect, this is not your typical case,” said Brian Kent, a former member of the Montgomery County district attorney’s office.
Several lawyers contacted about the case agreed that there is an argument to be made for hearing the appeal now, rather than after a trial.
According to veteran defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom, because the question is whether the trial should happen at all puts the appeal in a special category, called a “final” appeal.
“It’s really critical. If, in fact, there is a binding agreement there shouldn’t be a trial,” he said. Final appeals are usually heard as a last resort, but could apply in this case.
Defending the press-release-as-agreement premise may not ultimately pay off with a dismissal in appeals court, but it would at least delay proceedings against the 78-year-old actor and comic.
“That appeal could be quashed pretty quickly, if the court thinks it doesn’t have jurisdiction,” said attorney David Rudovsky. “It could be a month or six weeks.”
If the Superior Court does hear an appeal, it could take a few years to be resolved, he said. In either case, the preliminary hearing scheduled for March 8 would be delayed.