PHILADELPHIA—A suburban Philadelphia judge settled one of two key pretrial issues in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial when he ruled on Monday that the jury could hear Cosby’s damaging testimony from a decade-old civil deposition. The defense had argued that Cosby only gave the testimony after being assured he would never be charged in the case. But Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill concluded that Cosby had no such guarantee. O’Neill has vowed to bring the case to trial by June. The 79-year-old Cosby is charged with felony sexual assault.
Here’s where the criminal case against Cosby stands, and what’s ahead.
WHY IS THE DEPOSITION IMPORTANT?
The nearly 1,000 pages of often-lurid testimony show another side of the actor known as “America’s Dad” for his portrayal of amiable Dr. Cliff Huxtable in his top-rated show, “The Cosby Show,” from 1984-1992. Cosby acknowledged a string of extramarital affairs over 50 years and said he had given young women drugs or alcohol before sexual encounters that he deemed consensual. Many of the women say they were drugged and molested. Prosecutors in Montgomery County, near Philadelphia, reopened accuser Andrea Constand’s 2005 police complaint after the deposition became public last year.
WHAT DOES COSBY SAY ABOUT THE ACCUSER?
Cosby acknowledged the 2004 sexual encounter with accuser Andrea Constand, and described putting his hand down her pants after giving her three unidentified blue pills. He said he did not hear her object. “And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped,” he said. Prosecutors believe Constand was semi-conscious and unable to give consent. Cosby also described a telephone call with her mother a year later. “I didn’t want to talk about ‘What did you give her?'” Cosby said on the call, which was taped, “because we’re over the telephone and I’m not sending anything (the pill bottle) over the mail. And I’m apologizing because I’m thinking this is a dirty old man with a young girl. I apologized. I said to the mother it was digital penetration.” At the same time, he called Constand, whom he had met through her basketball team job at Temple University, “a liar” and said her account of their relationship was not truthful.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER WOMEN?
Cosby testified that he had gotten quaaludes from his doctor in the 1970s and kept them on hand to give to women before sex. He said he considered it illegal to offer someone the party drug, but did so in the same way someone might say, “Have a drink.” He said he once gave them to an accuser when he knew her in the 1970s. She was 19. “I meet (her) in Las Vegas. She meets me backstage. I give her quaaludes. We then have sex,” Cosby testified. He never took the powerful sedatives, he said, because they made him tired and he liked to “stay awake.”
WHAT’S NEXT IN THE CASE?
The judge will hear arguments next week on the other key pretrial issue, the question of how many other accusers can testify at trial about Cosby’s alleged pattern of drugging and molesting women. District Attorney Kevin Steele hopes to call 13 other women as “prior bad act” witnesses. The defense will fight strenuously to block their testimony, questioning their credibility and relevance. The hearing is set for Dec. 13 and 14.
HOW IS COSBY DOING?
Cosby has not spent any time in custody since his Dec. 30 arrest. He posted $1 million bail the same day and has made about a half-dozen court appearances, usually flanked by a team of lawyers and handlers. Defense lawyers say the 79-year-old comedian is legally blind and suffering from memory problems, rendering him unable to help them prepare for trial. Cosby is typically led into court by an assistant, but appeared relaxed at the most recent hearing last month, joking with an aide as he left the courtroom. Neither his wife of 52 years, Camille, nor any of their four surviving children have accompanied him.