NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – Hinting that he would exclude Bill Cosby’s sworn statements about giving quaaludes to women before sex, a federal judge said Friday he won’t rule on the issue until it comes up at trial.
“This defendant is not on trial for what he said in his deposition,” Judge Steven O’Neill said this morning, as the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas readies to begin jury selection in the case Monday.
Cosby gave the testimony at issue back in 2005 when he was fighting civil claims from Andrea Constand, the woman prosecutors here have charged him with sexually assaulting. Of the dozens of women who have accused 80-year-old Cosby of rape in recent years, 44-year-old Constand is the only one whose claims are not barred by the statute of limitations.
District Attorney Kevin Steele has argued that Cosby’s testimony, together with testimony from up to five of the other women, “would prove he is a serial predator.”
But Cosby’s defense team says Cosby’s admissions about quaaludes are irrelevant since Constand claims that the three pills Cosby gave her were blue, and quaaludes never came in that color.
They have also emphasized that Cosby’s statements were made about sexual encounters from the 1970s.
“The ’70s isn’t relevant in this case,” defense attorney Becky James argued, saying the use of quaaludes was widespread at the time. “It was not to assault them. It was not to make them incapacitated. It was never with the purpose or intent of having sex with unconsenting women.”
If O’Neill does not to allow the state to introduce Cosby’s testimony, the prosecution said they will not be able to bring it up unless while cross-examining Cosby if he testifies. Cosby did not testify in the first trial.
Assistant District Attorney Stewart Ryan told the court Friday that Cosby’s deposition shows intent and knowledge about how women react when given central nervous system depressants, such as quaaludes.
Constand had been director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University when she met Cosby, then a trustee of the school. She claims she saw the comedian as a mentor, and that he drugged and raped her when she went to his home in Cheltenham one night for career guidance.
Though Constand is a lesbian, her sexual orientation did not come up in the last trial, where the defense tried to show that she and Cosby had consensual romantic relationship.
To bolster their claims that Constand lobbed assault claims against Cosby for money, the defense pressed Judge O’Neill on Thursday to admit testimony from Margo Jackson, a former colleague of Constand’s at Temple.
Though Constand denies knowing the woman, who worked for the Temple women’s basketball team as an academic adviser, Jackson has claimed in an affidavit filed with the court that she and Constand shared a room together when the team went on a road trip.
Jackson said she and Constand were watching a news segment about a prominent person accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women, and that Constand told her that she had experienced something similar but did not report it to police.
“I could say it happened, file charges, and get money to go to school and open a business,” Jackson claimed that Constand said.
The prosecution says that Jackson’s claims are hearsay; by Cosby’s own admission, they note, Constand never asked for the pills he gave her, and she only visited his home when invited.
Another piece of evidence that the defense wants to admit to attack Constand’s character is the dollar amount Cosby paid her in 2006 to settle the civil suit.
Judge O’Neill has not ruled on this issue. He confirmed Friday that the jury for the retrial will be chosen from Montgomery County and will be sequestered in a local hotel for the duration of the trial, scheduled for at least four weeks.
Last year’s trial lasted one week, with another week of jury deliberations that failed to yield a unanimous verdict.
For the new trial, which is scheduled to kick off on April 9, Cosby will be represented by Los Angeles attorney Tom Mesereau, who famously defended a roster of celebrities including Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.