NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) — Attorneys for Bill Cosby fought in court Tuesday to bar 13 women who claim that the comedian drugged and assaulted them from taking the witness stand in an upcoming trial.
Wearing an olive green suit, 79-year-old Cosby appeared in good spirits as he walked into the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas this morning, giving the sheriffs a smile as he quoted a line made famous by student protesters, “Don’t tase me, bro.”
Proceedings before the court provide much less jovial, however, with Judge Steven O’Neill warning both sides to stop shouting at each other. “You two don’t want to be in trouble with our sheriffs,” the judge said.
Cosby is slated to go on trial for a 2005 sexual encounter at his home in Cheltenham, Pa. Former Temple University employee Andrea Constand has maintained for over a decade that Cosby drugged and raped her, but the district attorney for Montgomery County at the time opted not to prosecute her case.
Constand’s claims had all but faded from the public until 2015 when a stand-up routine questioning Cosby’s wholesome image went viral, leading dozens of women to come forward with similar allegations, some dating back to the 1970s.
Though Constand is the only one to come forward within the statute of limitations, prosecutors plan to have 13 of Cosby’s other accusers tell their stories on the witness stand.
District Attorney Kevin Steele urged Cosby’s counsel not to divulge the names of some women who will testify.
“But you gave them to us,” defense attorney Brian McMonagle shouted.
“It’s called discovery,” Steele fired back.
Judge O’Neill scolded both men, telling them to keep their voices down. “This is not the forum for rhetorical debate,” the judge said.
Angela Agrusa, a Los Angeles-based attorney with Liner Law, took the lead on the evidentiary issues for Cosby’s defense.
“We want to bring to light that these women are in groups on social media, exchanging information, and calling themselves ‘Cosby survivors,'” Agrusa said.
Noting that the defense plans to admit Facebook posts into evidence, Argusa said the information could show that these women conspired against Cosby, and that their claims are disingenuous.
“We need to look at the credibility and consistency,” Agrusa said.
Agrusa balked when Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan tried to rebut her argument. “I was speaking, Your Honor,” she said.
“Let’s go one at a time,” Judge O’Neill replied. “Ms. Agrusa, you will have your turn to speak.”
At this, the attorney chided O’Neill for mispronouncing her name. “My Sicilian grandparents would roll in their grave,” she said.
Judge O’Neill made sure to correct his pronunciation.
Agrusa emphasized that the 13 women prosecutors plan have highlighted “are all clients of Gloria Allred.”
McMonagle added that these are “bandwagon claims.”
DA Steele erupted at the hearing as well, standing from his seat and rushing over to the blank screen where the court in the afternoon proceedings will look at a PowerPoint presentation by Cosby’s attorneys.
“This is directed at the media, not to the court,” Steele yelled.
“Well you put it up!” McMonagle shouted back. “They’re not minors, and 10 of the 13 of these women have already been on national television.”
Judge O’Neill confirmed that court administration put the screen up and assured them it would be moved so the media could not see it to prevent tainting of the jury pool.
In the afternoon, DA Steele described the claims of the 13 women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them.
Emphasizing that Cosby used his fame, public status and authority to take advantage of these women, the prosecutor noted that each woman claims to have been attacked “in an environment he [Cosby] could control – something that is very important.”
“He sexually assaulted these women when they were incapacitated, and the victims did not consent,” Steele added.
Steele said Cosby got each woman alone and gave them some sort of an intoxicant. The women all remember Cosby “vaginally raping women with his penis” and his “digits,” Steele added.
In one surprising moment that sparked laughter in the gallery, Cosby blurted out from his seat “1937!” when the judge asked for the defendant’s birthday.
As Steele continued reading about the 13 women, he said Cosby gave them an “intoxicant in champagne” or pills that he said would “make them more comfortable.” All of this was done to take sexual advantage of them, Steele added.
Judge O’Neill stopped the prosecutor at about 4 p.m. “We’ve been going since this morning,” O’Neill said. “Let’s break for today.”
Court will reconvene at 9 a.m. Wednesday.