Judge in Cosby Sex Assault Trial Agrees to Jury Pool Change
A judge on Monday agreed to a request by an attorney for Bill Cosby to bring in a jury from outside Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, for the entertainer’s trial for alleged criminal sexual assault.
Judge Steven O’Neill in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, however, denied the Cosby lawyer’s other request to change the venue of the trial, which will be held in Norristown in Montgomery County.
Cosby is charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault over an alleged decade-old incident involving accuser Andrea Constand. He has pleaded not guilty.
His defense attorney, Brian McMonagle, asked for both a change of venue and venire – the location from which the jury pool is drawn, citing a need for a more racially and socioeconomically diverse population from which to draw jurors. The entertainer’s defense lawyers also said that media coverage has already convicted Cosby in the “court of public opinion.” And, the defense said the Montgomery County courthouse has a history of prejudice against Cosby.
The defense proposed Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, the state’s most urban areas, as the site for the trial and selecting a jury.
But prosecutors argued that the defense argument was “not just short on law, but short on logic.” The prosecution said it was comfortable with changing the location from which to draw the jury pool but not the site for the trial.
Judge O’ Neill ruled, “Wherein the parties agree media coverage has been pervasive … The defendant’s request for a change of venire is granted by the agreement of the parties; change of venue as pleaded and argued is denied.”
The judge has not announced yet from which county the jury will come.
Cosby came to the Montgomery County courthouse around 9:40 a.m. in a brown suit. He sat silently as his lawyer argued on his behalf.
The case stems from Constand’s accusations that Cosby drugged her with pills and then sexually assaulted her on his Pennsylvania estate in 2004 when she was director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia, which is the comedy star’s alma mater.
Cosby attorney McMonagle told ABC News last May that the relationship between the creator of “The Cosby Show” and Constand involved “multiple consensual sexual interactions.”
Cosby defended himself against Constand’s allegations in a civil-case deposition over the course of four days in September 2005 and March 2006. In the deposition, he said of touching Constand, “I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.”
He admitted in the deposition to giving Quaaludes to a different woman years before with whom he wanted to have sex.
Prosecutors wanted to put 13 more women on the stand to show that his alleged conduct was part of a distinct pattern of behavior. The district attorney had said in its motion that it had “investigated nearly fifty women allegedly victimized” by Cosby.
Cosby has denied all of the allegations brought forth by his accusers.
Today’s court proceedings come after Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill ruled Friday that the jury will hear from only one of the 13, a woman identified in court documents as Victim Number 6.
This woman claims in court documents that she met Cosby back in 1990 when she was an assistant to Cosby’s personal-appearance agent. She alleges that six years later, when she was 29 and Cosby 58, he invited her to lunch at a Los Angeles hotel, where, she claims, he suggested she take a pill with wine to relax, and later she awoke to him sexually assaulting her in bed.
Cosby has denied the woman’s claims and all of the allegations brought forth by his accusers.
The judge’s decision to allow testimony by this one women but not all 13 as requested by the prosecution won praise from both sides.
Steele, the district attorney, told ABC News in a statement: “This ruling is important as the jury will now be allowed to assess evidence that is relevant to establishing a common plan, scheme and design of sexual abuse and an absence of mistake by the defendant.”
Cosby’s publicist also praised the ruling in a lengthy statement to ABC News.
“As the world now knows, the Commonwealth’s action against Bill Cosby has never been about the accusations of the sole claimant Andrea Constand — whose accusations were already once rejected by the Commonwealth back in 2005,” the statement began. “This action has served as a platform for the Commonwealth to attempt to air decades old, unverified or challenged accusations of third-parties. The Court’s ruling on Friday significantly limits the Commonwealth’s tactic by rejecting all but one of their proffered 13 witnesses. And, Mr. Cosby remains prepared to defend his innocence of all charges made against him at trial state.”
On Nov. 8, 2006, Constand’s civil suit against the entertainer was settled confidentially and sealed, but after The Associated Press asked the court to unseal the deposition, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno opened up a small portion of the deposition in July 2015.
Cosby was charged in December 2015 with drugging and sexually assaulting Constand. The three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault came just a few weeks before the 12-year statute of limitations would have expired.
Cosby’s criminal trial is set for June 5 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Judge O’ Neill noted today that the jury will be sequestered. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on $1 million bail. He faces up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine if convicted.
ABC News’ Matthew Claiborne, Shah Rahmanzadeh, Gregory Croft and Linsey Davis contributed to this report.