Attorneys Clash on Giving Cosby Accusers a Platform

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) — An attorney for Bill Cosby appeared livid on Wednesday as prosecutors described the allegations of 13 women who missed the statute of limitations to accuse the comedian of having drugged and assaulted them.

“How do you defend yourself from,” asked Brian McMonagle, pausing to read from the testimony, “sometime in 1975 or maybe 1976 in a place that doesn’t exist anymore.”

“How is this a fair trial when these woman aren’t even sure,” McMonagle shouted. “This is why we have statute of limitations, Judge. These claims were from 40 years ago!”

The parties appeared in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas this morning for the second day of a hearing on the prosecution’s witness list. District Attorney Kevin Steele argued that Cosby’s “prior bad acts” should be admissible in the upcoming trial.

When Steele interrupted the defense’s argument, Judge Steven O’Neill repeated his warning from Tuesday for the attorneys to control their outbursts.

“You both have time for rebuttal,” O’Neill said. “Let him speak, Mr. Steele.”

McMonagle called the claims “absolutely absurd,” saying none of Cosby’s accusers have specific dates, times or locations – depriving Cosby of the possibility to defend himself or provide a credible alibi.

Prosecutors want the women to testify when Cosby stands trial in 2017 on charges that he drugged and assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2005 at his home in Cheltenham, Pa.

Constand had gone to police about her alleged assault in 2005, but the district attorney in Montgomery County at the time opted not to prosecute.

It was Steele who brought the charges last year when dozens of women had come forward with similar allegations, some dating back to the 1970s.

Shortly before Cosby’s arrest, a federal judge unsealed civil deposition testimony in which the star behind the wholesome character Dr. Huxtable admitted to giving women quaaludes before having sex with them.

At Wednesday’s pretrial hearing, Cosby sat stoic, occasionally squinting in confusion while the DA attacked his image.

“He was married at the time,” Steele said of Cosby. “He acted as a mentor and exploited that trust with these women. … He strikes when he has the setting, and these woman are so intoxicated that he can conceal what he was doing.”

With every woman, Steele continued, Cosby had “means, setting and opportunity.”

“Andrea and the 13 prior women are so related we cannot address one without addressing the other… this was a scheme of sexual assault,” Steele said.

“This is a lifetime of sexual assault on young women,” Steele added.

Noting that Steele won his office last year in part from his pledge to prosecute Cosby, McMonagle countered that politics is driving the DA to credit these “unspeakable” claims.  “Don’t take your eyes off the ball,” McMonagle urged Judge O’Neill continually, saying Constand’s case is “stale” and leaden with “bandwagon” claims.

Continuing with the theme of vision, McMonagle made a pointed reference to his 79-year-old client’s health.

“Mr. Cosby can’t see anymore, but if he could he would see all these people are providing him the ability to obtain justice, and you,” McMonagle said, pausing to look at the judge, “are giving him a fair trial.”

At every hearing, Cosby has used a cane and clasped onto an aide who guides him into the courtroom. Prosecutors scoffed at a November hearing, however, that the only proof of Cosby’s vision problems is a report that “looks like something from LensCrafters that anyone could get in the mall.”

McMonagle again blamed politics for driving Cosby’s prosecution. “This case was not brought for Andrea Constand,” he said. “She walked away from this over 11 years ago with a civil settlement. These claims were never made until after Andrea Constand.”

With a Christmas Choral Concert taking place in the lobby of the courthouse, O’Neill ordered a 45-minute recess before noon.

After the break, Cosby sat reclined in his chair and applied drops to his eyes as his attorney addressed the court.

“Yesterday Mr. Steele struggled to get facts straight,” McMonagle said. “And I don’t blame him. These facts don’t make sense. And if he can’t get them straight, how could we?

“You have to stop this,” McMonagle told Judge O’Neill.

“These claims are impossible to defend,” the attorney continued. “How can we ask a defendant to defend something that happened 40 years after an accuser makes an unspecific claim? Come on.”

Compounding the problem for Cosby, his attorney added, are inconsistencies in Constand’s testimony. McMonagle said Constand has four versions of her story, each with different dates and other details.

An attempt by the defense to highlight these inconsistencies with a PowerPoint presentation drew swift protests by the district attorney.

“This will taint the jury pool,” Steele said. “We’re not here to try him in the press.”

Judge O’Neill overruled the objection. “The only person talking about tainting the jury pool is you, Mr. Steele,” he said. “And there is nothing wrong with using something demonstrative during argument.”

The court nevertheless turned the screen away from the gallery’s view.

Defense attorney Angela Agrusa noted the problems with one accuser’s account that she woke up “wet” the next morning after taking quaaludes with Cosby. “We shouldn’t make assumptions about what the ‘wetness’ was from,” Agrusa said.

The defense painstakingly re-read through the allegations of the 13 women and compared each to the allegations made by Constand.

“These allegations are remote, vague and often inconsistent,” Agrusa said.

The defense also noted that many of these women are represented by Gloria Allred, a high-profile attorney who was present for the hearing.

McMonagle found it problematic that all of the women came forward only in the past decade. Some accused Cosby in 2005, right after Constand went to Pennsylvania police, or and the rest waited until after Allred held a press conference about Cosby in 2014.

Agrusa complained that Allred “paraded her clients in her office and asked them to read prepared statements – likely by her, so the press would repeat it.”

Some of the women have said Allred altered some of their statements, Agrusa noted. “It was to create a common scheme,” she said.

On rebuttal, Steele complained that the defense is trying only to “trash” the victims.

When the DA warned the court not to reward Cosby, Judge O’Neill slammed the DA’s choice of words. “I will be making a ruling,” O’Neill said. “I am not awarding anyone anything.”

To Steele, intoxication is the “remarkably similar” theme among the women’s encounters wit Cosby. “It’s drug-enabled sexual assault,” he said.

McMonagle called this case “unconstitutional” in his closing, saying the defense faces an “impossible mission” to fight nonspecific claims, some of which are over 46 years old.

“Pretend it’s not Bill Cosby and instead the everyday citizen,” McMonagle urged. “This is all utter nonsense.”

This case, he added, “doesn’t belong here.”

O’Neill agreed that the case is unusual. “This is a case like no other, in how it’s been presented,” the judge said.

Confirmed the “outside trial date” for June, O’Neill said he would have a ruling on the 13 witnesses before then.