Entertainment

Bill Cosby judge will not dismiss sexual assault charges

Judge Steven O'Neill denied a defence motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitations.

A judge has denied requests from Bill Cosby’s lawyers to throw out his sexual assault case.

Judge Steven O’Neill denied a defence motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitations and prosecutorial misconduct grounds.

Cosby’s lawyers argued the alleged assault that led to his arrest could not have happened in January 2004, as accuser Andrea Constand has testified, and falls outside the statute of limitations.

Mr O’Neill said he would leave that for the jury to decide.

Cosby’s defence team, led by former Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, argued telephone records, travel itineraries and other evidence show the alleged assault could not have happened when prosecutors say it did and thus falls outside the statute of limitations.

The defence disputed accuser Ms Constand’s evidence at Cosby’s first trial last year that the 80-year-old entertainer drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home some time in the first part of January 2004.

Ms Constand did not give a specific date, but said the incident had to have happened prior to January 20, when her cousin moved into her Philadelphia apartment.

Cosby’s lawyers told Judge Steven O’Neill on Monday they have found evidence Cosby was not even in Pennsylvania during that time.

Ms Constand gave evidence she would have called Cosby to be let into his home, but his lawyers said her phone records do not reflect such a call within her time frame.

The date is important. Cosby was arrested on December 30 2015, meaning any encounter prior to December 30 2003 would have fallen outside the 12-year statute of limitations.

Bill Cosby's lawyers are seeking to get the case thrown out (Matt Slocum/AP)
Bill Cosby’s lawyers are seeking to get the case thrown out (Matt Slocum/AP)

Prosecutors are trying to persuade the judge to allow as many as 19 other accusers to testify as the retrial.

They say the testimony is needed to counter the defence team’s “inevitable attacks” on Ms Constand’s credibility.

Lawyers for Cosby, who entered the courtroom on the arm of his spokesman, are trying to limit that number.

It would include model Janice Dickinson testifying, in an attempt to show a sinister flip side to Cosby’s public persona as America’s Dad – cultivated through his role as an affable Jell-O pitchman and the star of the top-rated 1980s family sitcom The Cosby Show.

Prosecutors allege the assault on Ms Constand was part of Cosby’s five-decade pattern of drugging and harming women.

Cosby’s lawyers argue that some of the other accusers’ allegations date to the 1960s and are “virtually impossible to defend against”. They said they would seek to delay the retrial if any of the women were allowed to give evidence so they could have more time to investigate their claims.

The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand at Cosby’s first trial, barring any mention of about 60 others who have come forward to accuse Cosby in recent years.

The only other hint that jurors got of Cosby’s past came from deposition excerpts from 2005 and 2006 in which the star admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.

Jury selection in the retrial is slated to begin March 29.

Monday’s hearing comes just 10 days after Cosby’s 44-year-old daughter, Ensa, died of kidney disease. His lawyers have given no indication they would seek to delay the hearing or his retrial.

In January, Cosby emerged from a long period of near-seclusion to have dinner with friends at a restaurant and give his first comedy performance in more than two years. Legal experts said the nights on the town appeared to be an effort to rebuild his good-guy image.

Cosby has pleaded not guilty to charges he drugged and molested Ms Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball official, at his suburban Philadelphia home. He remains free on bail.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Ms Constand and Ms Dickinson have done.

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