ABOVE PHOTO: Bill Cosby (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
By Maryclaire Dale
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The judge in Bill Cosby’s criminal case expects the trial to last about two weeks and hopes to have a jury in place before the proceeding opens June 5 in suburban Philadelphia.
At a pretrial hearing Monday, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he hopes to pick jurors in late May. He insisted the jurors’ names will not be made public.
The jurors will come from the Pittsburgh area and be sequestered throughout the trial nearly 300 miles away in Norristown.
Cosby, 79, is accused of dragging and molesting a Temple University employee at his home in 2004. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted on felony sex assault charges.
Later Monday, the judge was expected to weigh potentially crucial questions on whether jurors can hear Cosby’s decade-old testimony about quaaludes, his sexual history and his payments to women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
The defense had hoped the Allegheny County jury pool would be prescreened through a written questionnaire on their background, media habits and feelings about Cosby, given widespread media reports.
“You cannot walk into a grocery store, a convenience store, a minimart, without seeing (tabloid reports) … calling him a rapist,” defense lawyer Angela Agrusa argued Monday.
But O’Neill predicted that questionnaires mailed to peoples’ homes would quickly end up on social media, and he expressed concern that family members or friends could influence the answers.
He said that instead of a prescreening, the standard 16-question state form would be mailed to potential jurors and followed up by individual questioning in court.
Cosby gave the deposition testimony during the course of the accuser’s civil suit, which he later settled. He acknowledged in the deposition, made public in 2015, getting quaaludes in the 1970s to give women before sex.
Prosecutors say that testimony, along with comedic riffs about the supposed aphrodisiac Spanish fly, show that Cosby is familiar with date rape drugs. They have also asked to introduce a boyhood story from Cosby’s 1991 book “Childhood” about Spanish fly, and remarks he made the same year in an interview with TV talk show host Larry King.
However, his lawyers said the quaalude testimony is irrelevant since the powerful sedatives were banned 20 years before he met his accuser Andrea Constand. And they called the Spanish fly remarks nothing more than part of his comedy routine.
Cosby, long beloved as “America’s Dad” for his TV role in his top-ranked 1980s-era sitcom, has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail. He calls the encounter with Constand consensual.