ABOVE PHOTO: Bill Cosby (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
By Michael R. Sisak
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges will be delayed as his new legal team gets up to speed on the case.
Judge Steven O’Neill on Tuesday granted a defense request to postpone the retrial, which had been scheduled to start in November, saying there’s no way the 80-year-old comedian’s lawyers would be ready by then.
“To ask someone to review the voluminous record over 18 months – now 20 months in this case – simply cannot be done,” O’Neill said from the bench.
Cosby’s new lawyers made their first court appearance on behalf of “The Cosby Show” star, who’s charged with drugging and molesting a woman at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. His first trial in June ended in a hung jury, setting the stage for a retrial.
The attorneys who represented Cosby at the first trial, Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa, had asked to be let off the case. O’Neill approved the request, praising them for their “extraordinary advocacy.”
As they left the courtroom, the departing lawyers shook hands with Cosby and his new legal team, which includes Tom Mesereau, the high-profile attorney who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s child molestation case. Mesereau told TMZ last month that the case against Cosby was “weak” and that retrying him was “a waste of time.”
Other lawyers on the retooled legal team are former federal prosecutor Kathleen Bliss and Sam Silver, who represented now-imprisoned former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah in a corruption case.
After meeting in chambers, the judge asked Cosby’s lawyers to review their calendars and consider a start date sometime between March 15 and April 1. He said he’ll issue a firm date once they get back to him.
Signaling an early change in strategy, the new lawyers said they are willing to pick a jury from Montgomery County, where the alleged assault at Cosby’s home took place. Cosby’s former defense team insisted on picking a jury from a different county, partly because the case was a campaign issue in the 2015 race for Montgomery County district attorney. The first jury was selected from the Pittsburgh area and spent two weeks sequestered 300 miles (480 kilometers) from home.
None of the lawyers commented as they left court Tuesday.
Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former employee of Temple University’s women’s basketball program. He has said the sexual encounter was consensual.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.