Entertainer Bill Cosby will be back in a Montgomery County courtroom next month.
At that time, Judge Steven T. O’Neill is expected to rule on District Attorney Kevin R. Steele’s request to allow 13 other women, who accused Cosby of uncharged sexual misconduct from the 1960s through the 1990s, to testify at Cosby’s trial on charges he sexually assaulted one woman, Andrea Constand, at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004.
Last week, Steele and Deputy District Attorney Robert Falin argued the women should be permitted to testify at Cosby’s trial for the alleged assault of Constand under rules governing so-called “prior bad acts” to prove Cosby engaged in a “common scheme or plan” or a so-called unique “signature” they claim is shown across the stories of his accusers. Prosecutors contend there are similarities between Cosby’s alleged prior bad conduct and Constand’s allegations.
|Bill Cosby arrest photo/Courtesy Montco DA|
After the hearing, it became clear the judge must decide whether he will conduct “in camera” reviews, private interviews held in a judge’s chambers, of the women. Defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle, who is trying to keep the testimony of the 13 women out of Cosby’s trial next June, wants the judge to carefully review and weigh what the other alleged accusers have to say before their testimony is permitted at trial.
“I want you to find out as gatekeeper what’s going on here. What might be wrong in Denmark,” McMonagle told O’Neill, questioning the reliability of the testimony and the motives of the 13 other women, 10 of whom he claimed are represented by high-profile, civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, and have been paraded in front of the media.
Allred attended last week’s hearing and appeared to listen attentively as her name was brought up.
|Gloria Allred/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
O'Neill sked McMonagle and co-defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusa to propose a specific plan for the judge to interview the women privately. O’Neill indicated he may or may not consider it.
|Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill|
Steele has already outlined the claims of each of the 13 women, some aspiring actresses and models, in court papers, keeping their identities a secret, identifying them only as “Prior Victim One through Thirteen.”
“That’s our offer of proof on what we’re asking the court to rule on,” said Steele, adding he is willing to submit redacted statements of each of the proposed witnesses to the judge to support what he already revealed in court papers.
Steele doesn’t want the redacted statements released publicly.
McMonagle said the judge should not accept the prosecution’s composite at face value, rather, the judge should review the accusers’ actual, individual stories.
Last week’s hearing abruptly turned heated when Steele lashed out at defense lawyers for publicly naming some of the women when they responded in court papers to Steele’s request to allow the 13 women to testify.
|Montco DA Kevin R. Steele|
“It’s another attempt to intimidate witnesses. Some of these people have not been in the press and (the defense) identified them and it’s wrong,” Steele bellowed. “They make a public filing. It’s to put it out in public, to put it out in the press.”
“I’m surprised Mr. Steele went there today. No one has done anything inappropriate. We didn’t make an unfettered disclosure of anything,” McMonagle, his voice raised, responded, claiming many of the 13 women have already held press conferences on their own.
“This is a crucial time in this courthouse and the criminal justice system,” said McMonagle, adding citizens are supposed to have the presumption of innocence. “But the pendulum has swung and I’ve never seen it swung to the point it has now.
“Someone wants to call them victims. I call them accusers. These are accusations,” McMonagle added.
|Brian J. McMonagle/Photo by Carl Hessle r Jr.|
McMonagle suggested the pendulum has swung to the point prosecutors can propose bringing in witnesses who have nothing to do with Constand “to attack a man’s liberty…and they want to point fingers and say that we don’t have a right to identify them?”
“The pendulum has swung,” McMonagle reiterated angrily.
One thing is certain, more legal fireworks are likely between Steele and McMonagle as Cosby's case winds its way through the court system.
Stay tuned. Cosby returns to Montgomery County Court for pretrial hearings Dec. 13 and Dec. 14. Mr. Everybody’s Business will be there.