Hard-fought legal battles expected in Bill Cosby case

PHILADELPHIA — Bill Cosby’s lawyers went on the attack Thursday after the comedian’s arrest, calling the sexual assault charges a flawed, politically motivated case that will not hold up in court.

They are expected to try to gut the prosecution’s case or get it thrown out altogether by a variety of means, including preventing some of Cosby’s numerous other accusers from taking the stand; blocking the use of testimony he gave in a decade-old lawsuit; and making an issue out of the 12 years it took to file charges.

“I have my doubts they get this to a jury anytime soon,” said Los Angeles defense attorney Mark Geragos, noting the thorny legal issues and Cosby’s advanced age (78) and infirmities, namely his badly deteriorating eyesight. Geragos, who is not involved in the case, added: “Generally, time is a friend of the defense.”

A look at some of the likely battleground issues:

OTHER ACCUSERS

While Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting just one woman, Andrea Constand, legal experts predict a key pretrial battle over whether some of the dozens of other women who have accused the comedian of violating them can testify, too, to prove he had a “modus operandi.”

“Prior bad acts” are sometimes allowed as evidence in criminal cases, but judges often take a dim view of such testimony because it can be so damaging. They typically require prosecutors to prove it is directly relevant.

“We don’t want a jury to say, ‘If he did it once before, he must have done it now,”’ said Philadelphia attorney Jeffrey Lindy, who is unconnected to the Cosby case.

Lindy helped defend a Catholic Church official whose child-endangerment conviction for shielding a pedophile priest was overturned by an appeals court in December.

The reason: The prosecution put on weeks of testimony about the handling of 21 other priests under suspicion, even though the defendant wasn’t charged in connection with any of them. The appeals court called it overkill — in legal terms, more prejudicial than probative.

PRETRIAL PUBLICITY

Cosby’s arrest came after a blizzard of sensational allegations that destroyed his nice-guy image. The effects of the publicity are likely to be an extremely important consideration in picking a jury, said Hank Asbill, a criminal defense lawyer in Washington.

“People are going to have opinions about him one way or another,” Asbill said, “based on his notoriety and his popularity as a celebrity. And people are also going to have opinions about the case.”

POLITICS

On Thursday, Cosby lawyer Monique Pressley accused Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin R. Steele of playing politics with Cosby and filing charges against him to make good on a campaign promise.

Steele, currently the No. 2 prosecutor in the DA’s office, was elected district attorney in November in a hotly contested race in which the Cosby case played a central role. Steele ran ads attacking his opponent, former District Attorney Bruce Castor, for not prosecuting Cosby when Constand first went to police in 2005.

“What we have is not the effectuation of justice. What we have is the fulfillment of a campaign promise,” Pressley said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Steele was traveling and not available for comment.

COSBY’S CIVIL DEPOSITION

Weeks after the decision not to prosecute Cosby in 2005, Constand sued Cosby for sexual battery. He settled a year later, but only after he gave nearly 1,000 pages of deposition testimony. Among other things, Cosby acknowledged that he had repeatedly pursued sex with younger, often-struggling models and actresses and that he obtained quaaludes to give to women he hoped to seduce.

Over the summer, a federal judge unsealed excerpts of the deposition at the request of The Associated Press.

Cosby’s civil lawyers have appealed the unsealing, and his criminal attorneys will no doubt fight to keep them out of the trial, perhaps by arguing that Cosby spoke only after being assured by prosecutors he would not be charged with a crime.

But criminal defense lawyer David Rudovsky, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “What you say at a deposition, or what you say to anybody, can be used unless it’s coerced or said without a Miranda warning.”

THE 12-YEAR DELAY

Pennsylvania law gives prosecutors 12 years to file felony sexual assault charges. In the Cosby matter, prosecutors made it just under the wire, with Steele saying the unsealed documents and the parade of new accusers over the past decade helped him build a case.

But the defense “can still challenge the prosecutor waiting until the 11th hour. There are constitutional rights to a speedy trial,” Geragos said.

Still, he predicted that will be an uphill battle for Cosby’s attorneys.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Tala Davey-Wraight, 3, is thrown in the air by her dad Oscar Davey-Wraight, one of the Summer Meltdown headliners also known as Opiuo, during Cory Wong’s set on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After Monroe debut, no Summer Meltdown music fest in 2023

Organizers announced Wednesday they would “take the year off in order to figure out the best path forward for Summer Meltdown in 2024.”

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace council taps planning commissioner for open seat

With five votes, Rory Paine-Donovan was affirmed to join the ranks of the Mountlake Terrace City Council.

Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office) 20201223
Leader of Snohomish County fentanyl, meth ring gets federal prison

A search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington unearthed kilos of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Karla Wislon holds a champagne glass while celebrating the closing sale of her home in Palm Springs, Ca. on May 14, 2021. (Family photo)
Former state Rep. Karla Wilson, 88, remembered as ‘smart, energetic’

Wilson served the 39th Legislative district from 1985 to 1991. She died Dec. 31.

CEO Amy King standing outside of a pallet shelter. (Courtesy of Pallet Shelter)
After rapid rise, Everett’s Pallet hits milestone: 100 shelter villages

Temporary home manufacturer Pallet hires locals who have “experienced homelessness, substance abuse or the justice system.”

Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Despite controversy, Lynnwood opioid treatment center opens its doors

For weeks, protesters have objected to the center opening near Little League fields and a Boys and Girls Club.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Lobbyist barred from WA Capitol after ruling he stalked representative

State Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, obtained a domestic violence protective order against longtime lobbyist Cody Arledge.

Charlie Pancerzewski (Courtesy of Pancerzewski family)
Mukilteo citizen watchdog, 83, spoke for ‘the facts and the truth’

“It is fitting that the public see (Charlie Pancerzewski’s) name when they get up to the podium for public comment,” the mayor said.

A suspect removes a rifle bag from a broken rear window of a Seattle police car on May 30 in downtown Seattle. An Everett man, Jacob D. Little, 24, has been charged with the theft of the high-powered rifle stolen from the car. This image is from the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. 20200904
Everett man sentenced for stealing police gun in Seattle protest

Jacob Little, 26, now faces second-degree murder charges for allegedly killing a man in Renton in August 2020.

Most Read