Cosby could face multiple accusers at sexual assault trial

Pennsylvania prosecutors said on Tuesday they intend to call more than a dozen accusers as witnesses against TV comedian Bill Cosby at his sexual assault trial.

During a hearing on Tuesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill in Norristown tentatively scheduled Cosby’s trial for June 5, 2017, giving both sides months to pursue what will likely be a fiercely fought series of legal battles over the scope of evidence allowed at trial.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office asked O’Neill’s permission to introduce the testimony of 13 women who claim the 78-year-old entertainer assaulted them. The names of the women were not disclosed in court filings on Tuesday.

Cosby is charged with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 at his Pennsylvania home. Approximately 60 women have accused Cosby of attacking them over several decades, though the Constand case is the only one to result in a criminal prosecution thus far.

The former star of the 1980s TV series “The Cosby Show,” who built a long career on family-friendly comedy, has denied assaulting anyone and has portrayed his sexual relationships with the women, including Constand, as consensual.

In general, a defendant’s prior bad acts are not admissible as evidence that he or she committed a particular crime. Prosecutors, however, are sometimes allowed to use evidence or witnesses to prove a defendant committed a crime as part of a longstanding pattern of behavior.

Numerous women have accused Cosby of strikingly similar sexual assaults, claiming that he plied them with alcohol and drugs before taking advantage of their altered mental state.

Judges typically weigh the value of such evidence against the possibility that it will unfairly prejudice a jury.

Cosby’s lawyers, meanwhile, have made their own motions seeking to limit the evidence. They have asked O’Neill to bar the district attorney’s office from introducing a telephone conversation between Cosby and Constand’s mother that was secretly recorded, as well as a deposition from Constand’s civil lawsuit against Cosby in which the comedian admitted giving Quaaludes to women before sexual encounters.

In addition, Brian McMonagle, the lead defense lawyer, said on Tuesday he planned to request that the trial be moved elsewhere. He suggested the pool of potential jurors in Montgomery County had been tainted because the Constand case became a major campaign issue when District Attorney Kevin Steele ran for office last year.

Cosby, who is free on $1 million bail, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Frances Kerry)

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