Bill Cosby’s lawyers will take another run at getting his criminal sex-assault case thrown out when the comedian returns to court this week.
Cosby’s lawyers will renew arguments that the accuser should be forced to testify, and face cross-examination, before his case is held for trial.
The law on that point remains in flux in Pennsylvania. A state appeals court ruled last year that victims do not have to testify at preliminary hearings, to spare them from repeated court appearances. Police can instead read their statements.
But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue. Cosby, whose case was earlier held for trial, wants accuser Andrea Constand to testify at a new hearing in case the law is reversed.
Prosecutors complain that the defense mostly wants to test her credibility, which is not a factor at preliminary hearings.
Veteran trial lawyers say the defense hopes to lock in her testimony, with an eye toward inconsistencies, and assess her demeanor on the stand. At the same time, they said, there’s a danger in pressing the witness too far in a sex-assault case.
“There’s sometimes a benefit to having them testify more than once, but what you don’t want to do is create even more sympathy for these victims than already appears to be the case because of the nature of the crime,” said Benjamin Brafman, the New York criminal lawyer who successfully defended Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief, on sex-assault charges. Brafman is not involved in the Cosby case.
Police read long excerpts from Constand’s initial police statements at Cosby’s May 24 preliminary hearing, when a judge upheld the felony sex-assault charges. Cosby is essentially appealing that decision at Thursday’s hearing, which he is required to attend.
Cosby, now 78, is accused of drugging and molesting Constand at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. She went to police in 2005, but no charges were filed.
Prosecutors reopened the complaint last year after unsealed court filings showed Cosby admitting he got quaaludes in the 1970s to use to seduce women. Dozens of women had also come forward to say Cosby had drugged and assaulted them.
The Constand case is the only one to lead to criminal charges, although Cosby is embroiled in defamation lawsuits with other accusers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California.
Cosby became a friend and mentor after meeting Constand, then about 30, through her job with the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where he was a trustee and avid booster. He maintains they engaged in several petting sessions but called them consensual. Cosby said he gave her three Benadryl tablets the night in question before engaging in sex acts with her on his couch and then leaving her there to sleep when he went to bed.
Constand told police she was in and out of consciousness and unable to move after taking the unidentified blue pills. She said she awoke in discomfort with her clothes askew.
She left Temple months later to return home to Toronto, where she now works as a massage therapist.
The AP generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they agree to have their names published, as Constand has done.