Bill Cosby: HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — In an amazing decision that could test the legal framework of # MeToo cases, the highest court in Pennsylvania will review the trial decision to allow five other accusers to testify at Bill Cosby’s 2018 sexual assault trial, which ended with the long-term conviction of a TV star.
Bill Cosby, 82, was jailed in suburban Philadelphia for almost two years after a jury accused him in 2004 of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home. He is serving a sentence of 3 to 10 years.
The Supreme Court also agreed to investigate two aspects of the case, including the judge’s decision to allow prosecutors to call the other accusers to testify to the actor and comedian about long-term encounters. Bill Cosby’s lawyers have long complained that the testimony is unreliable and remote.
The court should also decide whether the jury would have heard Cosby’s own deposition testimony about having quaaludes to give women in the past, as it considers the breadth of the permissible facts.
Second, Cosby’s claim that he had an understanding with a former prosecutor that he would never be tried in that case would be investigated by the court. Cosby said he relied on the alleged promise to give the deposition in the lawsuit of the prosecutor Andrea Constand.
Because Cosby was arrested in December 2015, days before the 12-year limitation statute expired, those concerns have been at the center of the trial.
“I respectfully request that the PA Supreme Court consider the enormous prospect of returning my perpetrator to the community after being labeled a convicted sexually violent predator,” Constand said in a statement.
Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia reopened the case that year after The Associated Press fought in Constand’s sexual assault and defamation lawsuit to unseal portions of Cosby’s ten-year – old deposition. In 2006, Cosby paid $3.4 million to settle the plea.
Cosby also confirmed a series of extramarital affairs in the deposition. He called them consensual, but many of the women say they have been molested and drugged.
Dozens came forward to accuse Bill Cosby, long beloved as “America’s Dad” because of his hit sitcom in the 1980s, of sexual misconduct in the years that followed. Judge Steven O’Neill of Montgomery County allowed only one of them to testify at Cosby’s first trial in 2017 which ended with an acquittal.
Yet a year later the judge allowed five other accusers to testify at the retrial after the # MeToo campaign erupted in the aftermath of reports on Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other prominent people. The jury convicted Cosby on all three charges of aggravated sex-assault.
Lawyer Brian W. Perry claimed in the appeal that requiring other accusers to testify in #MeToo cases “flips constitutional jurisprudence upon their heads, and the ‘presumption of guilt’ becomes the principle rather than the presumption of innocence.”
However, the judge said that in the women’s accounts of their encounters with Cosby he saw “striking parallels,” and that the testimony was also appropriate to provide evidence of a “signature crime.”
“He met a significantly younger woman in each case, gained her trust, invited her to a place where he was alone with her, provided her with a drink or substance, and sexually assaulted her once she was impaired,” O’Neill wrote in a post-trial opinion. “These chilling similarities made your testimony (their) admissible.”
On Tuesday, spokesman Andrew Wyatt said the decision comes as protesters around the nation protesting the deaths of Black men by police and revealing the “abuse that exists inside the criminal justice system.”
“Bill Cosby’s false conviction is so much bigger than him-it’s about the destruction of ALL Black people and Americans of color,” Wyatt said in a statement.
Constand, a former professional basketball player who is now engaged in sexual assault victims, asked Tuesday’s appeals court not to allow “Bill Cosby’s wealth, fame, and fortune to win an escape from his maleficent, malignant, and straightforward criminal past.”
Asked about the 2006 deposition encounter with her, Bill Cosby described being on his couch and putting his hand down her pants after giving her three pills which he identified as Benadryl. They made her pass out, Constand said.
“I don’t hear her say something, and I don’t feel like she’s saying something, so I’m moving on and I’m moving into the field between permission and denial somewhere. I’m not prevented,” he said.
Legal experts said the appeal review could help clarify when judges in sex crime cases, at least in Pennsylvania, should allow “prior bad act” testimony from other accusers and whether a supposed verbal promise from one prosecutor should bind their successor.
“I think Cosby still has an uphill battle,” said Laurie Levenson, professor at the Loyola Law School. “The good news is that the state Supreme Court will look at the appeal,”
The AP does not typically name people who say they were victims of sexual assault without their permission, which Constand granted.
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