NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors and lawyers for Bill Cosby sparred Friday over whether jurors at his sexual assault retrial will hear lurid deposition testimony from the comedian about giving quaaludes to a string of women before sex.
District Attorney Kevin Steele asked a judge during a pretrial hearing in suburban Philadelphia to let them read the testimony into the record at Cosby’s April 9 sex assault retrial, just as it was at the first one that ended in a hung jury last year.
Steele said the testimony, along with the testimony of up to five additional accusers, bolsters their plan to portray Cosby as a serial predator. Those women weren’t allowed to testify at the first trial.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday as the 80-year-old Cosby faces charges he drugged and molested former Temple University athletics administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Cosby’s lawyers — who are also counting on Judge Steven O’Neill to make rulings critical to their plan to portray the accuser as a greedy liar who framed the comedian — say the testimony is irrelevant because there’s no evidence he gave Constand the drug.
His lawyers argued prosecutors are trying to use the deposition and expected testimony from the additional accusers to distract jurors from the case at hand.
Constand says Cosby gave her three blue pills. His lawyers say quaaludes never came in that color. The comedian contends he gave her the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl.
Any relevance that Cosby’s quaalude testimony might have, “is far outweighed by the unfair prejudice, confusion of issues and misleading of the jury that would result from its admission,” the comedian’s lawyers argued in court papers.
Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan argued Cosby’s deposition testimony is important because it shows he had an awareness of the effects that central nervous system depressants, such as quaaludes, have on women, and it shows his admitted intent for using such drugs.
“The man sitting right over there said these things and they were typed down,” Ryan said.
As he weighs decisions that will have a critical impact on the case, Judge Steven O’Neill on Friday rapped lawyers on both sides for punctuating their arguments with pointed statements that could sway potential jurors reading them in media accounts of the hearing.
“Stop with the judgmental, conclusory language,” O’Neill warned, adding that it “just has no place in the law.”
O’Neill said he will rule Friday on whether the defense can call a witness who claims Constand spoke about falsely accusing a celebrity before going to police.
The judge also has to decide how much jurors will hear about Cosby’s financial settlement with Constand. His lawyers say the amount will show “just how greedy” she was.
Prosecutors said the theory that Constand wanted to set Cosby up is undermined by his testimony in a 2005 deposition that she only visited his home when invited and that he gave her pills without her asking.
Cosby admitted in the testimony he gave quaaludes to a 19-year-old before having sex in the 1970s.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that the lawsuit and payment were the direct result of her scheming against him. Prosecutors said Cosby’s negotiators wanted to bar Constand from ever cooperating with law enforcement.
O’Neill presided over Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.
O’Neill remained on the case after rejecting the defense’s assertions on Thursday that he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims.
In arguing for the judge to step aside, Cosby’s lawyers pointed to a $100 donation made in his wife’s name to an organization that gave money to a group planning a protest outside of the retrial.
O’Neill said the contribution was made 13 months ago by the department where his wife works at the University of Pennsylvania and that Cosby’s lawyers held an antiquated view of marriage where spouses must agree on everything.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday and jurors will once again be sequestered at a hotel. Opening statements and testimony are not expected to get underway until April 9 at the earliest.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
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