All eyes, from legal experts and celebrity-watchers to local residents just seeking to satisfy their curiosity, will be on actor Bill Cosby, who turns 80 in July, and former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand, 44, this week as they come face-to-face for the first time in decades during a high-profile legal drama.
|Bill Cosby at Montgomery County Courthouse/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
I suspect you’ll be able to hear a pin drop as Constand, now a massage therapist in Canada, walks to the witness box to confront Cosby with her allegations that he sexually assaulted her at his Cheltenham mansion after plying her with blue pills and wine in early 2004. It will be a dramatic moment to soak in.
But there are other moments and people to watch for during this trial.
Will she or won’t she make an appearance? That is the question on the minds of many when it comes to Cosby’s wife of more than 50 years. During the 18 months of pretrial legal wrangling that ensued since Cosby’s December 2015 arrest, Camille has not appeared with her husband’s entourage at the Montgomery County courthouse. She’s been noticeably absent and the times I’ve been asked by people, “Was Camille there?” are too numerous to count. Time will tell.
If Mrs. Cosby does make an appearance, watch for the media and any Hollywood paparazzi on site to go wild.
Courtroom observers also will be looking for appearances by Cosby’s daughters, Erinn and Ensa, who have publically supported their father during recent interviews leading up to the trial.
Bruce Castor Jr.
Will the former county district attorney who chose not to charge Cosby with any crimes in 2005 make an appearance during the trial? It’s unclear if the defense team will call him as a witness.
During an intense pretrial hearing last year, defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle argued Cosby had a so-called 2005 “non-prosecution promise” from Castor. McMonagle raised the alleged 2005 Castor promise to try to have the charges dismissed against Cosby, but Judge Steven T. O’Neill rejected that argument and moved the case forward.
|Bruce L. Castor Jr./Submitted Photo|
Castor, district attorney from 2000 to 2008, previously claimed there wasn’t enough “reliable and admissible” evidence to criminally charge Cosby in 2005.
Cosby’s lawyers contended the 2005 non-prosecution promise was made for the express purpose of inducing Cosby to testify in Constand’s civil litigation against him, removing from him the ability to claim his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, “thus forcing him to sit for a deposition under oath in a civil case” in 2005 and 2006.
Defense lawyers claimed District Attorney Kevin R. Steele “repudiated the agreement” with Castor and based the criminal charges lodged against Cosby on testimony Cosby gave during the deposition connected to the civil suit. Steele argued there was no non-prosecution promise.
Cosby was deposed in connection with the lawsuit over four days in September 2005 and March 2006. The suit ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount on July 13, 2006.
Current prosecutors reopened the criminal investigation in July 2015 after portions of Cosby’s deposition connected to the civil suit were unsealed by a federal judge and his alleged damaging testimony, that he previously gave quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex, was exposed.
Castor has been known to show up at some other high-profile trials. Last year, he made a surprise appearance at the obstruction trial of former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Will he show up at Cosby’s trial? I’ll let you know if there’s a sighting.
ALLEGED ‘PRIOR VICTIM NUMBER SIX’
In February, O’Neill ruled prosecutors can present the testimony of “prior alleged victim six” at Cosby’s trial. Steele had asked the judge to allow a total of 13 other women who accused Cosby of uncharged sexual misconduct to testify at the trial, but O’Neill ruled 12 of the women cannot testify.
|Bill Cosby 2015 Arrest Photo/Courtesy Montco DA's Office|
O’Neill’s ruling was considered one of the major pretrial legal decisions in the Cosby case. Legal insiders believed the key to the prosecution’s case against Cosby was the admissibility of evidence involving alleged accusers who came forward after Constand’s allegations came to light in 2005.
“Victim six,” the one O’Neill will allow to testify, is identified in court papers as a 29-year-old woman who met Cosby around 1990 and was an assistant to Cosby’s personal appearance agent at the time.
The woman claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her during a lunchtime meeting in 1996 at the actor’s bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles after offering her some red wine and a white pill to relax, according to court papers. The woman claimed she became incapacitated and was unable to consent to or to resist Cosby’s unwanted sexual advances, prosecutors alleged.
The well-known celebrity lawyer from Los Angeles has been present at numerous Cosby pretrial hearings and she represents many of the 13 other alleged Cosby accusers that prosecutors sought to have included at the trial.
|Gloria Allred/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.|
McMonagle and co-defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusa previously argued many of the women represented by Allred launched media campaigns, making their claims suspect.
Allred has often stepped to a podium outside the courthouse to address the press after the pretrial hearings. Everyone will be watching to see if Allred is accompanied to court by any of her clients.
Stay tuned. Cosby’s trial gets under way on Monday morning.
Once the trial begins, I’ll have daily reports for Digital First Media publications. You can also find breaking Cosby news by following @MontcoCourtNews on Twitter.