Cosby could face multiple accusers at June assault trial

Tue Sep 6, 2016 10:47pm EDT
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By Joseph Ax

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania has been scheduled for June next year, and if prosecutors have their way, more than a dozen accusers will take the stand to detail what they claim is a decades-long pattern of attacks.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O'Neill in Norristown, Pennsylvania, set Cosby's trial for June 5, 2017, setting up what will likely be months of fiercely fought legal battles over the scope of evidence allowed at trial.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's office on Tuesday asked O'Neill's permission to call as witnesses 13 women who claim the 79-year-old entertainer assaulted them.

Cosby is charged with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 at his Pennsylvania home. Approximately 60 women have accused Cosby of similar attacks, though the Constand case is the only one to result in a criminal prosecution.

The former star of the 1980s TV series "The Cosby Show," who built a long career on family-friendly comedy, has denied assaulting anyone and has portrayed all of the encounters as consensual.

In general, a defendant's prior bad acts are not admissible as evidence that he or she committed a particular crime. Prosecutors, however, are allowed on rare occasions to use evidence or witnesses to prove a defendant committed a crime as part of a longstanding pattern of behavior.

Judges typically weigh the value of such evidence against the possibility that it will unfairly prejudice a jury.

In incidents dating to the 1960s, all 13 women claim Cosby offered them either drinks or pills that left them disoriented and then sexually assaulted them in strikingly similar circumstances. Kevin Steele, the district attorney, said following the hearing that the women had all agreed to appear as witnesses.   Continued...

Bill Cosby is helped by an aide as he returns into Courtroom A in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S. September 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Michael Bryant/Pool