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

The Everett Police Department was investigating a woman's death Sunday morning after a driver hit and killed her on Broadway in north Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Woman killed by suspected impaired driver in Everett

A driver reportedly hit the person, which prompted the closure of Broadway between 17th and 19th streets Sunday morning.

Everett
Everett library, fire department will have social workers on call

Many 911 calls don’t require police or fire responses. City leaders want to ensure frequent callers get the help they need.

French fries and a fried chicken sandwich are shown at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in New York in 2015. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Michael Nagle
New Chick-fil-A restaurant coming to Everett?

An Everett Mall Way location would be the restaurant chain’s fourth Snohomish County store.

Everett
Charges: North Everett murder suspect caught on camera

Jeremiah Stringfellow, 27, is being held on first-degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of Naej Belledent, 22.

x
Meadowdale teen claims race kept her off varsity basketball team

The 15-year-old sophomore alleges that, consciously or not, a new girls basketball head coach limited players of color.

Everett resident Shon Grimes receives a flu shot from pharmacist Nisha Mathew at Bartell Drugs on Broadway on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Already, worst flu season in years has claimed 3 in Snohomish County

Statewide, 13 people have died, including two children, from the flu this season.

Scout Skyler MacKay, 14, sits amongst only a small number of the over 600 toys he has collected for local children in foster care as part of his Eagle Scout project Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at his family’s home in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen Santa: Scout brings toys and joy to foster kids, like he was

Skyler MacKay, 14, of Lynnwood is collecting 1,000 toys for his Eagle Scout project. Toys will be given year-round.

Daily Herald food, drink and restaurant reporter Taylor Goebel.
Our food writer bids farewell

Taylor Goebel shares news of her departure, as well as her favorite moments as The Herald’s food & drink reporter.

This screenshot shows the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office's new crime dashboard released to the public last week. It tracks crime trends over the last few years.
Sheriff’s new database gives window into Snohomish County crime rates

Homicides are up compared to 2021. Some other violent crimes and property crimes are down, data released last week shows.

Most Read