Lawyers for comedian Bill Cosby and Pennsylvania prosecutors clashed on Monday at a court hearing over what evidence a judge should allow jurors to hear at his sexual assault trial in June.
Cosby’s sworn admissions that he obtained prescription sedatives to administer to young women with whom he wanted to have sex deserve to be introduced as evidence in the criminal trial, Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan said in court.
That testimony, made by Cosby in depositions involved in his Pennsylvania accuser’s civil case against him more than a decade ago, show the 79-year-old entertainer’s motive and intent in the criminal case, Ryan argued.
The deposition by Cosby led to what was supposed to have been a confidential civil settlement signed in 2006 with his accuser, Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at Temple University.
“This evidence demonstrates that he thinks it’s OK to give women drugs in order to have sex with them,” he told Judge Steven O’Neill of the Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County in Norristown, just west of Philadelphia.
But defense lawyers argued that the statements, if admitted, would unfairly prejudice jurors against Cosby.
More than 50 women have leveled sexual misconduct allegations at Cosby, some of them stretching back decades. But the Pennsylvania case is the only criminal prosecution he has faced to date.
Cosby, whose career and wholesome image were shattered by the accusations, has said every sexual encounter was consensual.
Like numerous other women, Constand has accused Cosby of giving her pills in order to incapacitate her.
In court documents, prosecutors said they also want jurors to hear excerpts from Cosby’s autobiography, as well as statements he made in a 1991 television interview, in which he described the power of an aphrodisiac called “Spanish fly.”
His words make clear his longstanding interest in using intoxicants to incapacitate women, prosecutors said.
But Cosby’s lawyers responded that the comments were comic material for entertainment, not evidence of criminal behavior.
“These jokes are not about Mr. Cosby, not about assault, and not about rendering anyone unconscious,” his lawyers wrote.
The two sides also argued on Monday over the jury selection process, which will unfold hundreds of miles away in Pittsburgh after O’Neill previously granted a defense motion to import jurors from another county due to pretrial publicity.
Defense lawyers have asked O’Neill to approve an extended written questionnaire for up to 2,000 potential jurors that would include specific questions about the Cosby case.
Prosecutors told the judge that doing so was unnecessary since he could ask the same questions of each potential juror in person.
Once a jury is selected, the panel will hear the case in Montgomery County for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last approximately two weeks.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Mary Milliken and Bernadette Baum)