Friday, February 17, 2017

An Unusual Valentine's Day in Montgomery County Court



It was an unusual state of affairs that couldn’t be overlooked on the third floor of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Valentine’s Day.


In one courtroom, Courtroom A, Judges Risa Vetri Ferman, Joseph P. Walsh and Garrett D. Page presided over the beautiful wedding ceremonies of about 20 couples choosing the traditional day of love to honor their unions.
Ian Drake & Christina Manning of Conshohocken are wed by Judge Garrett D. Page/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Here's the story: Couples say "I do."


Newlyweds Aaron Eugene and Lauren Simmons of Schwenksville with Judge Risa Vetri Ferman/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.


But just 50 feet away, in Courtroom D, President Judge Thomas M. DelRicci presided over a civil hearing for Rafael Robb, the former University of Pennsylvania professor who brutally ended the union with his wife, Ellen Gregory Robb, in their Upper Merion home in 2006.


I went from observing pledges of everlasting love - husbands and wives tying the knot - in one courtroom, to observing the aftermath of a marriage that went sour and turned deadly - a recently released from prison husband forced to also pay financially for brutally killing his wife - in the other courtroom.
Rafael Robb/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.




It was a juxtaposition of events that I had not expected that day.





I found myself saying, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
I’ll choose to remember the goodness of the day, all of those joyful couples who left the courthouse hand-in-hand, smiling about the journey to come, rather than about the 66-year-old Robb, who left the courthouse forever branded a wife killer and all alone.


Congratulations to the county’s judges for coming up with the idea for the special Valentine’s Day wedding program and making it a success. Perhaps it can become a tradition in county court.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Makeovers - Jailhouse Style

One thing I’ve learned working the court beat is that jail certainly can change one’s appearance. Sometimes courtroom observers are shocked at how a defendant’s look changes from the time of arrest to trial.

It’s hard to tell if they purposely change their looks or if the lack of a good barber and hair dyes or styling products in jail forces them to undertake a makeover.

Recently, in Montgomery County there have been examples of what I have dubbed "Makeovers – Jailhouse Style."

Take the case of well-known lawyer Vincent A. Cirillo Jr. for instance. When Cirillo, 57, who had a law office on East Penn Street in Norristown, was arrested and charged in August 2015 with raping an unconscious female client he looked like this:

                                                    BEFORE
Vincent A. Cirillo Jr./August 2015 mugshot Courtesy Montco DA's Office


But Cirillo shocked everyone in court last week when he showed up for his trial with a shaved head and without facial hair. 
                                                                   
                                                      AFTER
Vincent A. Cirillo Jr. Feb. 6, 2017/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Among Hollywood stars and in popular culture, I think men often sport shaved heads to project a tough-guy image or confidence. I’m not sure what image Cirillo was trying to project. Cirillo was convicted of rape and is awaiting sentencing in connection with the sexual assault of an impaired female client at the woman’s West Norriton residence on Aug. 3, 2015.  
                             
                                BEFORE
Gregory Noonan/Dec. 2013 mugshot Courtesy Montco DA's Office




Another disbarred defense lawyer, Gregory Noonan, of Towamencin, totally changed his look between the time he was arrested in December 2013, at age 53, and when he was sentenced to five to 15 years in state prison in April 2015, at age 54, for selling oxycodone to an undercover detective and for stealing more than $87,000 from a civil client.


AFTER
Gregory Noonan, April 2015/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.



I still remember courthouse employees, who had seen Noonan around the courthouse for many years, expressing shock when they saw his drastic change in appearance for the first time. Some didn't even recognize him.








And here's the most recent photo of Noonan, snapped during a January 2017 court appearance.
Gregory Noonan, Jan. 2017/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.


Then there’s the case of Devon Vogelsang, 24, of Pottstown, a member of the so-called “Brothas From Anotha” gang, who was sentenced Jan. 31 to 15 to 30 years in prison in connection with shootings and other violent acts that occurred in the Pottstown area between November and December 2014.

Vogelsang’s tattooed face caused quite a stir when his mugshot was publicized at the time of his May 2015 arrest.
                                                         
                                                          BEFORE

 Devon Vogelsang/Mugshot May 2015/Photo Courtesy Montco DA's office

But by the time he was sentenced last month, since spending time in county and state prison, Vogelsang appeared to have added a few more tattoos to his face, what looked like an attempt to create a cross on his forehead and several new markings on his cheeks. Sources tell me prison tats are illegal but inmates sometimes secretly use guitar strings or staples and make their own ink to use to create new tattoos.
                                                                           
                                                            AFTER
 
AFTER - Devon Vogelsang/Jan. 2017/Courtesy Montco DA's Office
In court, Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood used photographs of Vogelsang’s face to carefully review the tattoos he amassed during his young life and to seek a gang enhancement that allowed for increased terms of incarceration for his crimes.

“A life of violence and crime, it has been permanently written all over his face," Ringwood argued.

An undercover county detective testified as an expert on gangs about the meanings behind Vogelsang’s tattoos. Dollar sign tattoos and the words “paper chaser” depicted Vogelsang’s “fascination with money,” the detective testified. The word “Trap” surrounded by dollar signs is a symbol for the culture of selling drugs, the detective said.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pottstown Gang Busters Honored With Citation

As Montgomery County prosecutors continue to obtain convictions and lengthy prison terms against members of two rival, violent, drug-related gangs that plagued Pottstown between 2014 and 2015, it’s come to my attention the investigative effort has resulted in accolades for law enforcers and prosecutors.

The Citizens Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley recently recognized the Montgomery County Detective Bureau, Pottstown Police Department and the Montgomery County Correctional Facility with a “Multi-Agency Unit Citation” for the “Operation War Ready” investigation that dismantled the two gangs.

The recognition is well-deserved and county detectives with the district attorney’s Violent Crime Unit and Pottstown police can be proud of the work they did, coming to the aid of community members who were pleading for help during the height of the violence. Prosecutors also should be commended for putting together cases that resulted in getting the culprits off the streets and behind bars.

Montco DA Kevin R. Steele/submitted photo
Kudos to District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, his team of prosecutors, Chief County Detective Samuel J. Gallen, undercover members of the Violent Crime Unit and Pottstown Police Chief F. Richard Drumheller and his officers for their outstanding work.

A total of 47 people were arrested in May 2015 after the county’s Violent Crime Unit and Narcotics Enforcement Team and Pottstown police crushed the two rival gangs, “Brothas From Anotha and Straight Cash Money Gun Crew,” operating in the borough and neighboring Berks County. Authorities alleged the gangs were responsible for violent, drug-related incidents dating back to the summer of 2014. The two gangs were identified during an investigation dubbed “Operation War Ready.”

The conflict between the organizations “resulted in numerous shootings and gun battles” during a six-month period, detectives wrote in arrest documents. Authorities said the gangs were connected to illegal narcotics trafficking.

VIDEO: Operation War Ready News Conference

Prior to the collaborative investigation, a total of 17 shootings, a group beating and numerous illegal drug trafficking incidents linked to the gangs occurred in the region. On two occasions, there were multiple shootings transpiring on the same day and the shootings were retaliatory in nature.
Gang member Devon Vogelsang/submitted photo 


Law enforcers with the help of county jail officials gathered intelligence on the suspected gang members and obtained court permission for wiretaps on the suspects’ cellphones.

At one point investigators learned that Straight Cash Money Gun Crew member Alexander “Dot” Scott, armed with a Tec-9 machine gun, was on his way to Pottstown to execute a member of the rival Brothas From Anotha gang. Detectives intervened by plucking the target off the streets on Feb. 28, 2015.


Former District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, now a county judge, previously credited detectives for preventing “the attempted cold, calculated execution of the rival gang member.” Ferman was DA when the operation was launched.
Risa Vetri Ferman/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

In recent weeks, many of the violent gang members have been convicted of attempted murder, assault and weapons offenses and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from a decade to 57 years. There are still a few more offenders awaiting sentencing.

I think county First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr., who handled the cases with co-prosecutors Tonya Lupinacci and Heather Hines, said it best recently after a hefty sentence was handed to one gang member and he praised the joint investigative effort.
Montco First Assistant DA Edward McCann Jr./Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.


“I think the message it sends is that the Montgomery County DA’s office, the detective bureau, the Pottstown Police Department and Lower Pottsgrove Police Department, none of us are going to tolerate violence in any corner of Montgomery County and if it does occur, we’re all going to work together and ensure that anyone that engages in that kind of behavior is going to be held accountable,” said McCann. “The response is going to be swift. We’re going to do thorough investigations.”


So, congratulations to everyone involved for being recognized by The Citizens Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley. It is well earned.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

DelRicci Earns Kudos, Thanks for Shout-out to Employees

Montgomery County Judge Thomas M. DelRicci’s address earlier this month during his installation as president judge garnered rave reviews from a lot of county workers who expressed their appreciation after the judge gave a special shout-out to them.
Montgomery County Judge Thomas M. DelRicci/Photo courtesy DelRicci family


First, DelRicci, a 62-year-old jurist from the Ambler section of Whitpain Township who has been on the bench since 1998, acknowledged his “exceptional staff” – his assistant, Natalia Hordijenko, his law clerk, Julie Decker, his court clerk, David Strehle and his criers, Kathy McNally and William McGee. 

“They keep me organized and grounded. There is a little friendly competition among judges who all like to boast about their staff. Recently, at a portrait unveiling, two of our judges both asserted they had the very best staff. As an exercise of the prerogative of the president judge, I want to take this opportunity to officially announce that they were both wrong,” DelRicci said, eliciting laughter from the standing-room-only crowd. “I have the best staff.”

However, the judge continued, it’s not only the judicial staff that makes the county courthouse so special.

“It’s everyone who works here. The men and women of the mailroom, the maintenance staff, the court administrator’s office, the security staff, the sheriff’s deputies, the clerks and personnel of the filing offices, the stenographers,” DelRicci said.

Judge DelRicci with wife, Carol and mom, Jennie/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
“Ladies and gentleman, I see how hard these individuals work every day, sometimes under difficult circumstances, to make certain that this courthouse functions well. I want all of those individuals to know today that your work is appreciated, your smiles are appreciated and that I will be your advocate. You have earned that,” DelRicci said.

The audience erupted with thunderous applause.

After the ceremony, many courthouse employees approached me to say they were pleased and thankful that the judge recognized them in his remarks. Some expressed surprise, not used to being recognized in such a public fashion. I could tell it really meant a lot to them.

“We don’t function without them. If my mail doesn’t get delivered, I can’t do my job. If the court reporters aren’t there doing their jobs, I can’t do my job. When I go to do my job every day, there are people who support me,” the judge told me several days later when I asked him during an interview about his decision to recognize employees during the swearing-in ceremony.

“It’s about saying, ‘Look, if you’re doing your job every day and doing it well you should be recognized for it,” DelRicci said.
Judge Thomas M. DelRicci/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.



Too often, I believe, the support staff does go unrecognized. I think those who work day in and day out to keep the courthouse running smoothly deserve the special recognition.




Kudos to Judge DelRicci for recognizing the employees. It definitely was a morale booster, a very positive message and great way to start off a new year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Tap of the Gavel in Honor of Judge William J. Furber Jr. at his Retirement

The end of a year often brings with it some retirements in government and legal circles and none was more noticeable last week than that of Montgomery County President Judge William J. Furber Jr.

Photo of Portrait of Judge William J. Furber Jr.
Furber, 68, of Narberth, retired after more than 23 years on the county bench. Throughout his tenure, Furber was known for his leadership qualities and his reputation as a jurist was impeccable. Furber’s knowledge of the law, temperament and wisdom garnered much respect from colleagues and the lawyers who practiced in his courtroom. He was known as a true gentleman, a man who wore his signature bow tie to work on many days.

Having sat in his courtroom covering trials on many occasions, I was always struck by Furber’s fairness, courteousness, respectful tone and patience. I recall covering Furber’s Jan. 6, 2012, installation as president judge and I can say the judge certainly fulfilled the promises he made at that time.

“When it comes to courthouse culture, I am old school – courteousness, patience and respect and the willingness to listen are important traits for judges and lawyers alike. I believe in decorum. These courtrooms are sacred to me,” Furber told the crowd during a heartfelt speech in 2012. 

“You can have the greatest and most well-funded programs in the world, but if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people, with basic courtesy and respect, then the effort will fail,” Furber added.

I think those are powerful words to live by, for every judge.

A kind man, Furber always acknowledged the support he received from his wife, Welcome, his three sons and his courthouse family, administrative assistant Lois Joiner, court clerk Liz Oreo, court reporter Lisa Neal and court criers Bob Miller and Joe Wallen.

On Dec. 30, county Commissioner Joe Gale presented Judge Furber with a citation on behalf of the board of commissioners in recognition of his retirement and many years of service. The event was held prior to Veteran’s Treatment Court, which Furber presided over since its inception in 2011.

Screen shot of Commissioner Joe Gale's tribute to Furber via Twitter
“We, the Commissioners of Montgomery County, do hereby commend and congratulate the Honorable William J. Furber Jr. on the occasion of his retirement after many years of dedicated public service and express our gratitude for his exemplary service and contributions to the citizens of Montgomery County,” the citation read.  
Photo of Portrait of Judge William J. Furber Jr.


Furber, a graduate of the University of Maryland and Temple University School of Law who was elected to the bench in 1993 and who was retained in 2003 and 2013 for additional 10-year terms, beamed with pride during the event.  

Furber, who served in the Marine Corps, presided over the specialty court that was formed to enhance public safety and reduce recidivism rates among veterans who are charged with crimes. Under the program, veterans are connected with community treatment services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs while receiving appropriate dispositions to their criminal charges.


During his time on the bench, Furber also presided over civil, family and criminal court. Prior to being elected a judge in 1993, Furber worked as a county prosecutor from 1974 to 1976 and then was a litigation specialist and partner with the Norristown firm Wilson, Drayer, Morrow and Furber from 1976 to 1991. In 1991, Furber became a sole practitioner with an office in Norristown.


So, as you leave the bench Judge Furber, I want to thank you for your many years of service and congratulate you on a retirement that is well earned. Enjoy! You will be missed around the county halls of justice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Tis the Season for Awareness and Prevention

As the holiday week arrives and party season is in full swing, public safety officials nationwide warn us about the dangers of drunken driving.

As a court reporter, I’m reminded of those dangers on a daily basis with DUI cases comprising nearly a quarter of all the cases that come through the courthouse annually. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is currently prosecuting more than 1,400 DUI cases and the Sheriff’s Office Warrants Division has more than 900 DUI warrants on its books.


Tragically, too many DUI cases end with someone being killed or maimed.


So during this season of awareness and prevention I make a special mention here of a unique collaboration between members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Pennsylvania. Sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors and MADD officials volunteer their time to promote a designated driver program during Philadelphia Eagles home games.

Montco Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny/Submitted Photo




“We’ve participated in several. I think it’s very valuable. They help educate fans about the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of designated drivers at home games,’ Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny told me recently.



“The volunteers man the table. These dedicated men and women offer their personal time to volunteer to attend Eagles football games and work at the MADD booth and encourage fans to plan ahead and designate a non-drinking driver,” explained Linda Sposato, a victim services specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Pennsylvania, adding MADD National and the NFL have teamed for five years at identical events at stadiums nationwide.

The volunteers, four at each game, man a MADD booth at eight home games and two preseason games at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We get the fans as they come into the stadium and explain to them the importance of them having a non-drinking designated driver for the group that they’re with,” Sposato said.
Linda Sposato, victim services specialist for MADD/Photo by Carl Hessler. Jr.


Under the program, the designated drivers sign a pledge and receive a coupon for a free soft drink. The designated drivers also are entered into special drawings to win prizes at each game.

“The people who sign up are very passionate about being a designated driver and making sure that their friends and family get home safe. And many times you find they somehow know someone who was involved in a DUI crash,” said Sposato. “We’d like to have more people sign up. We’re still giving the same message that we started over 30 years ago - make a plan before you go out.”

Assistant District Attorney Douglas Lavenberg, who once was a member of a special DUI prosecution unit in the county, has also volunteered at the games and said encouraging fans to make “smart choices” is important.
Montco Prosecutor Douglas Lavenberg/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“People can go out, they can have fun and they can drink responsibly but we don’t want anyone to get behind the wheel intoxicated,” Lavenberg said. “It’s a reminder to be responsible. The games are a great forum to get that message out. We get a lot of people to sign up.”



It’s a great opportunity for volunteers to get involved.

“Many times the volunteers are victims and they want to make a difference because of what happened to them,” said Sposato. “They feel they want to do something to stop it from happening to someone else.”

According to Sposato, during the five seasons that MADD and the NFL have worked together, more than 1.1 million people signed up to be non-drinking designated drivers at NFL games nationwide.

Lavenberg said he plans to stay involved in the effort.
“I believe strongly in the message that Mothers Against Drunk Driving is sending. I believe there is a world possible where there is no more drunk driving,” Lavenberg said.

Sposato said MADD is honored to have a local partnership with county officials “dedicated to keeping our roads safe for everyone.”

“To actually have the DA’s office and the sheriff’s department volunteer their own personal time to come out and support our cause just made me feel so good that they appreciate MADD’s work and want to help us,” Sposato said. “MADD is extremely grateful to the Sheriff’s Office along with the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for going above and beyond in their part in saving lives.”

Sposato, the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office should be recognized for everything they do to make our roads safer year round. I applaud your efforts and thank you.


Here’s wishing all readers a very Merry Christmas and safe holiday season.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Local Legal Experts Agree, Bill Cosby's Next Courtroom Clash is 'THE' Battle


[NOTE: Bill Cosby returns to a Montgomery County courtroom next week to try to keep 13 other women, who allegedly accuse him of sexual misconduct, from testifying against him at his upcoming trial for allegedly sexually assaulting one woman at his Cheltenham home. Legal insiders say it's probably the most important legal battle in the criminal case.  Recently, I asked some well-known local lawyers what they thought about the battle. Portions of the following report previously appeared in The Mercury, the Times Herald, The Reporter, the Daily Local and the Daily Times. Here's a recap to bring you up to date:]

They are identified in court papers as “Prior Victim One to Thirteen,” former Playboy Club workers, models, aspiring actresses and comedy writers, flight attendants, cocktail waitresses, and secretaries, and they could play a significant role in the alleged sexual assault trial of entertainer Bill Cosby.


Montco DA Kevin R. Steele



Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele alleges the unidentified women were victims of Cosby’s uncharged sexual misconduct from the 1970's through the 1990's and should be permitted to testify at Cosby’s trial on charges he sexually assaulted one woman, Andrea Constand, at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004. Steele argues the testimony is relevant “to establish a common plan, scheme or design” for the jury.


“During the course of this case, the commonwealth investigated nearly fifty women allegedly victimized by the defendant. What became clear was that defendant has engaged, over the course of his lifetime, in a pattern of serial sexual abuse,” Steele wrote in court papers.

But defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle claims the prosecution is attempting “to bolster its weak case” with the testimony of 13 other women and that such testimony would be unfairly prejudicial to Cosby and should not be permitted. McMonagle argues due to the passage of time, “Cosby cannot even prove where he was at the time of many of the alleged incidents” and that the accusers’ allegations are “vague.”
Brian McMonagle/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.


“The commonwealth’s strategy magnifies the unfair prejudice to Mr. Cosby significantly. Ten of these accusers did not come forward until more than a decade after the commonwealth’s highly publicized 2005 investigation. These ten accusers chose to wait until 27 to 46 years after the alleged incidents and after Mr. Cosby had gone blind,” McMonagle and co-defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusa wrote in court papers.



Judge Steven T. O’Neill will begin weighing the admissibility of the so-called “prior bad acts” when he holds a pretrial hearing on the matter beginning Tuesday. Local legal experts agree it’s a key pretrial battle that could determine the path that the lone criminal prosecution pending against Cosby takes.

“That’s what this case boils down to. That’s the whole thing. The more of that that comes in, the more helpful it is to the prosecution, plain and simple,” said criminal defense lawyer Jordan Friter. “That is ‘THE’ courtroom battle in this case. That has to be the goal of the defense from Day One - to keep as much of that, if not all of it, out as is certainly possible.”

Thomas C. Egan III/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“Given the other rulings that have already been made, this is the largest ruling that is left. And if the defense is handicapped because the government is successful in litigating this motion so the evidence is all going to come in, then it’s going to be an avalanche of new evidence which is going to have to be gone over by the defense and rebutted on a case-by-case basis by the defense,” added Norristown criminal defense lawyer Thomas C. Egan III.


Egan and Friter, each a former prosecutor turned defense lawyer, have handled their fair share of high-profile local cases in county court but are not connected to the Cosby case.

So-called “prior bad acts” are sometimes allowed at trial but judges scrutinize such requests very carefully and require prosecutors to prove they’re relevant.

“As a defense lawyer, I would argue vigorously to keep it out. The key to any trial is that the judge provides a fair trial to the prosecution and to the defense,” said Lower Merion criminal defense lawyer Cary B. McClain, also a former prosecutor, who is not connected to the Cosby case.

DEPOSITION AND CLAIMS BY OTHER ACCUSERS

Cosby, 79, faces a June 5, 2017, trial on charges of aggravated indecent assault in connection with his alleged contact with Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, after plying her with blue pills and wine at his Cheltenham home sometime between mid-January and mid-February 2004.
Bill Cosby/Montco Arrest Photo


The case represents the first time Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, has been charged with a crime despite allegations from dozens of women who claimed they were assaulted by the entertainer. Cosby has been named in several civil lawsuits filed by women who claim he violated them too.

Cosby claims he was prejudiced by a decade-old delay in bringing sexual assault charges against him and that the charges should be thrown out.

But Steele has said prosecutors reopened the criminal investigation in July 2015 after segments of Cosby’s deposition connected to a 2005 civil suit brought against him by Constand were unsealed by a federal judge. In that deposition, Cosby gave damaging testimony, allegedly admitting he obtained Quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Prosecutors contend Cosby also admitted for the first time that he had sexual contact with Constand. Cosby has suggested it was consensual contact.

“The release of these depositions generated a great deal of publicity, as well as a number of public claims by women who alleged Cosby had assaulted them under circumstances similar to those reported by (Constand),” prosecutors alleged in the arrest affidavit.

Legal insiders believe the key to the prosecution’s case against Cosby is the admissibility of evidence involving alleged victims who came forward after Constand’s allegations.

PRIOR BAD ACTS CAN BE “INCREDIBLY DAMAGING”

When prior bad acts testimony is admissible, it can be “incredibly damaging,” Friter said.
Jordan Friter/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“Once juries start to hear about a person’s other conduct, which is something that’s always in the back of their minds, and they hear about things that a person may have done in the past, that makes it a tough hill to climb (for the defense),” Friter said.


“If the government’s allowed to introduce this evidence it is not just one alleged victim who is making allegations against Mr. Cosby, it is a whole host of them, all of whom do not know each other. So it has a tendency to give greater credence to what these other people are saying…,” Egan added. “If they can’t introduce that evidence, then it’s the prosecution case rising and falling on the word of one alleged victim.”

Before putting on his defense hat, Friter, as a prosecutor, was captain of the district attorney’s sex crimes unit and in that capacity did file requests to admit prior bad acts at some trials.

“As a prosecutor that’s one of the most powerful weapons you have is to be able to bring in someone’s prior alleged conduct because normally it’s completely off limits. But, especially in a sexual assault case, if you can get it out there that a person has done the exact same thing before, in a jury’s eyes, that’s just powerful evidence of guilt,” said Friter, speaking generally.

“I had cases where it came in and cases where it didn’t. The cases where it came in they ended up being successful prosecutions, I think in large part because of that, absolutely, there’s no denying it,” said Friter, adding in a case where it’s one person’s word against another’s and you have something to “tip the scale” in favor of the victim “it’s hard for the defense to overcome that.”

McClain said it’s difficult for a defense lawyer to wage a fight against an accuser’s testimony about something that allegedly happened decades ago under circumstances where there are no police reports, no video and no other witnesses to the incident. 

Cary B. McClain/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
“It’s impossible to defend against those cases and you’re going to have a case within a case, within a case, and it’s going to confuse the jury and it is way too prejudicial,” McClain maintained.

On the other hand, the legal experts said, with no police reports available to corroborate the other accusers’ allegations of sexual misconduct, Cosby’s lawyers could argue the accusers’ claims are suspect.

“You also have the issue of making a sexual assault trial into larger trials on the sexual assault allegations made by all these other women. If the defense is going to litigate it properly they’re going to have to treat each one of those as a separate sexual assault trial to undermine the credibility of each one of those,” Egan said.

Regardless how O’Neill rules, it’s not likely to set any precedent, experts said.

“It will not set any precedent in the county - the legal standards are the legal standards. But it’s going to be interesting to see how Judge O’Neill applies them to the particular facts of this case,” Egan said.

Stay tuned, I'll be in the courtroom on Tuesday to give you the latest developments when Cosby returns to court. Follow @MontcoCourtNews on Twitter for updates.

[The newspapers do not normally identify victims of sex crimes without their consent but is using Constand’s name because she has identified herself publicly.]