Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Cosby Saga - Pretrial Episode One

Entertainer Bill Cosby had his first pretrial hearing in Montgomery County Court this week on charges he allegedly drugged and molested a woman at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004 and a lot was said in the courtroom. But it’s what was said outside the courtroom by Cosby’s lawyers that captured the most attention.

Defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle characterized Cosby as a victim of racial discrimination.

“Mr. Cosby has spent his entire life trying to fight against injustice, trying to help other people overcome racism and prejudice,” McMonagle said on the steps of the courthouse Tuesday, adding the media has presumed Cosby guilty, not innocent. 

“The media has championed the causes of his accusers with little thought to investigation, with little thought to exposing the motivations behind any accusations…”

Co-defense lawyer Angela Agrusa, implied a lack of investigation has led to “a barrage of new accusers claiming, ‘Me too.'" She added, “To accept the assumption of guilty by numbers or guilt by volume is really the same thing as accepting the assumption of guilt before innocence. For Mr. Cosby, this is a version of the shoot now, ask questions later approach to judicial justice.”

The lawyers’ statements came in the wake of District Attorney Kevin R. Steele filing a request to allow 13 other women who alleged to have been the victims of Cosby’s inappropriate conduct to testify at Cosby’s trial for sexually assaulting alleged victim Andrea Constand in 2004. In the court filing Steele said, “What became clear was that defendant has engaged, over the course of his lifetime, in a pattern of serial sexual abuse.”
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele/Submitted Photo

Steele’s request is expected to result in the defense waging an aggressive battle to prevent that testimony from ever coming in. That’s a battle for which I want a front row seat in court.

Later in the day, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt fired off the following statement expounding on the defense team’s claims:

“Mr. Cosby is no stranger to discrimination and racial hatred and throughout his career Mr. Cosby has always used his voice and his celebrity to highlight the commonalities and has portrayed the differences that are not negative --- no matter the race, gender and religion of a person.

“Yet, over the last 14 months, Mr. Cosby and those who have supported him, have been ignored while lawyers like Gloria Allred hold press conferences to accuse him of crimes for un-witnessed events that allegedly occurred almost a half century earlier,” the statement read, referring to Allred, the civil rights lawyer who represents dozens of women who allege Cosby had inappropriate contact with them.

Civil Rights Lawyer Gloria Allred/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

“The time has come to shine a spotlight on the trampling of Mr. Cosby’s civil rights. Gloria Allred apparently loves the media spotlight more than she cares about justice. She calls herself a civil rights attorney, but her campaign against Mr. Cosby builds on racial bias and prejudice that can pollute the court of public opinion. And when the media repeats her accusations – with no evidence, no trial and no jury – we are moved backwards as a country and away from the America that our civil rights leaders sacrificed so much to create.

“Mr. Cosby is not giving up the fight for his rights,” the statement ends.

Bill Cosby leaves court/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
After the hearing, as Cosby walked to a waiting vehicle to take him home, some fans shouted “Thank you, Bill” and “Stay strong, Bill” as they used cell phones to capture video or a photo of the entertainer.
Another fan yelled, “Jell-O, there’s always room for Jell-O Mr. Cosby,” an obvious reference to Cosby’s role as a pitchman for Jell-O pudding and gelatin in the 1980s and 1990s.

Judge Steven T. O'Neill/Submitted Photo

During the early part of the pretrial hearing, Judge Steven T. O’Neill said he was aware of published reports that seemed to indicate Cosby suffers from blindness. O’Neill advised McMonagle to let court administrators know if the actor needs any “special accommodations” as the trial process moves forward. McMonagle thanked the judge for the consideration but did not address or elaborate on the state of Cosby’s eyesight at that time.

But as Cosby, 79, whose mugshot showed his right eye appearing cloudy, walked to and from the courtroom he was guided by the arm by an aide and walked with the help of a cane at times. However, the actor appeared more fit than he has in the past and was jovial with his aides during breaks in the proceedings. Some courtroom spectators could be heard openly questioning if Cosby was attempting to garner sympathy.
Bill Cosby mugshot/MontcoPa DA Office

During a discussion on setting a trial date, the judge said it was difficult given that McMonagle is “one of the most preeminent trial lawyers” in the five-county Philadelphia region who has a large inventory of cases and is already attached to several murder trials during the upcoming year.

“I did look around when you said ‘preeminent,’ judge,” McMonagle joked and smiled humbly, eliciting laughter from some amused spectators.
The judge and the lawyers finally agreed on a June 5, 2017, trial date for Cosby.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come in this saga - Pretrial Episodes 2 - ? are on the way.

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