NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – A woman who says Bill Cosby’s sexual assault accuser confided in her about a plan to fabricate such allegations can testify at the comedian’s retrial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Though the brief order from Judge Steven O’Neill has few details on the witness, Cosby’s defense team told the court in a January motion that Margo Jackson’s testimony will critically undermine the credibility of Andrea Constand, the only one of dozens of Cosby accusers whose claims are not too old to prosecute.
Constand met Cosby through her job at Temple University, where Cosby was a trustee, and claims that he drugged and raped her at his Cheltenham home one night after she sought career guidance from the much older entertainer.
But Jackson said in a signed affidavit that Constand’s allegations came as no surprise to her based on a conversation they had years earlier.
“I felt that Ms. Constand was setting up a celebrity, just as she told me she was going to do,” Jackson’s affidavit states.
As a former academic adviser to the women’s basketball players at Temple, Jackson says she befriended and often roomed with Constand, the team’s director of operations, when traveling for work.
On one of these occasions, Jackson’s affidavit states, the women were watching a news report “about a prominent person who had been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women.”
Jackson says Constand initially claimed that something like that had happened to her, then backed down when Jackson pressed her.
“No it didn’t but I could say it did,” Constand allegedly said. “I could say it happened, file charges and get money to go to school and open a business.”
Cosby’s defense team, now led by celebrity attorney Tom Mesereau, says the testimony is key to demonstrating that Constand schemed to set up 80-year-old Cosby.
But District Attorney Kevin Steele cast the testimony as “absurd” in an opposition brief.
“This desperate move to introduce this highly suspect, hearsay testimony reflects defendant’s continuing strategy of inserting red herrings to distract from the relevant issues in this case,” Steele wrote.
At Cosby’s first trial, Constand testified that she did not know or remember Jackson, and Judge O’Neill barred Jackson’s testimony as inadmissible.
O’Neill probed the matter again at a hearing last week and granted the defense’s motion in a packet of orders dated April 2 but announced Tuesday morning on Day 2 of jury selection.
Another of the orders defers ruling on Cosby’s separate motion to exclude testimony from up to 19 other Cosby accusers.
O’Neill said Cosby cannot get a continuance and that he will rule on the additional witnesses, “if necessary, at the appropriate time during trial.”
A third order says that attorneys can introduce the dollar amount Cosby paid to settle Constand’s civil claims in 2005. Constand had brought civil claims against Cosby at the time because then-DA Bruce Castor found her criminal allegations insufficient to prosecute.
Castor and Constand meanwhile are now fighting civil claims against each other, and Judge O’Neill ruled Tuesday that evidence from this case should be precluded from Cosby’s retrial.
O’Neill’s final ruling of the week defers ruling on whether to let Constand’s mother, Gianna Constand, testify about the night her daughter confided in her about allegedly being assaulted by Cosby.
Cosby’s retrial is set to kick off next week.