NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – Though initially slated to face retrial on sexual-assault charges before the 2017 holiday season, Bill Cosby won a delay of at least four months Tuesday.
Aiming to give Cosby’s new defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, time to prepare, Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that the 80-year-old entertainer’s next trial is now expected to kick off in late March at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
Mesereau’s hiring by Cosby was just announced Monday. Known for winning the acquittal of Michael Jackson on child-molestation charges in 2005, Mesereau’s roster of past clients also includes boxer Mike Tyson, rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight and a Playboy bunny.
When Cosby’s last trial ended in a hung jury this past June, he was represented by Liner LLP attorney Angela Agrusa and Brian McMonagle, of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak. Both lawyers asked to be removed from the case earlier this month, and Judge O’Neill granted their request at this morning’s pretrial hearing, praising the attorneys for their “extraordinary advocacy.”
Also at this morning’s hearing, attorney Mesereau indicated that Cosby wants the jury selected from within Montgomery County this time around.
Montgomery County is just a half-hour drive from Philadelphia but is far less diverse, with a nearly 80 percent white population, compared with Philadelphia’s white population of just over 35 percent, according to census data.
Cosby’s last jury was brought into the Norristown courthouse from the Pittsburgh area, 300 miles away.
Both Allegheny and Philadelphia counties have more than 1 million residents, but Allegheny’s black population is about 13 percent, while Montgomery’s is about 8 percent. In Philadelphia, the black-alone population is 41 percent.
Cosby faces three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault. The comedian’s trial accuser, former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, claims that Cosby’s drugged and raped her in 2004 at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham.
Dozens of women have come forward with similar allegations against Cosby over the years, alleging encounters dating back to the 1970s, but Constand is the only accuser whose claims are not barred by the statute of limitations.
Cosby and Constand met at Temple University when he was a trustee and she was director of operations for the women’s basketball team.
Constand, who is a lesbian and thirty-five years younger than Cosby, testified in the June trial that she had come to see Cosby as a “mentor” and father figure, unaware that he harbored any romantic feelings toward her. On the night of her alleged assault in early 2004, Constand claims she had gone to Cosby’s home for guidance about a possible career change. She says she accepted his offer of pills that he said were herbal, to help her relax, and then was sexually assaulted by Cosby once she became incapacitated and could not consent.
Though the claims against Cosby are now more than a decade old, Constand initially reported him to the police in 2005. When Bruce Castor, the district attorney of Montgomery County at the time, found the case too weak to prosecute, Constand pursued Cosby in civil court, where she won an undisclosed settlement.
This case was sealed and had all but faded from the spotlight when comedian Hannibal Buress worked it into a 2014 stand-up comedy about Cosby’s image.
After the other Cosby accusers began speaking out, a federal judge who presided over Constand’s civil trial unsealed incriminating deposition testimony by Cosby in which he talked about giving quaaludes to women before having sex with them.
Kevin Steele, the candidate running for Montgomery County DA that year, made it part of his campaign platform that he would get justice for Cosby’s accusers.
Cosby was indicted just before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to run on Constand’s claims. He maintains that the encounter in question was consensual, and that the pills he gave Constand were Benadryl.
If convicted, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison.
Alongside Mesereau, Cosby’s defense team includes former federal prosecutor Kathleen Bliss and Samuel W. Silver, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania Law School who represented now-imprisoned former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in a corruption case.
Cosby’s previous attorneys have included Marty Singer, who was removed from the case in 2015, former Assistant U. S. Attorney Christopher Tayback and Washington D.C-based Monique Pressley.
In a July 4, 2017, video interview with TMZ, Mesereau called the prosecution’s case against Cosby “a waste of time.” He said the county had “a weak case” and that Cosby had already been “tried and convicted in the media.” Mesereau claims he “predicted” Cosby’s mistrial and concluded they “they should drop the case … and let him live his life.”