Judge delays ruling on deposition by Cosby accuser’s friend


By David DeKok

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – The judge in Bill Cosby’s sex assault retrial on Friday delayed a decision on whether defense attorneys can introduce testimony from a woman they say could undercut his accuser’s claim that she was unaware of the entertainer’s physical interest in her.

The 80-year-old entertainer, best known as the dad in the 1980s television hit series “The Cosby Show,” is on trial on charges of drugging and raping Andrea Constand, 45, a former employee of his alma mater, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004.

Constand is one of more than 50 women to accuse Cosby of a string of sexual assaults dating back decades, and hers is the only claim recent enough to be the subject of criminal prosecution. Cosby denies all wrongdoing, saying any sexual contact was consensual.

Judge Steven O’Neill said he would rule on Monday, which could be the final day of testimony, on Cosby’s lawyers’ request to read parts of a sworn statement from Sheri Williams. Constand testified at the first trial that Williams was a good friend who stayed in touch when she told police in January 2005 about the attack.

The defense team said it was unsuccessful in subpoenaing Williams to testify at the retrial and wanted to read from her deposition in Constand’s 2005 lawsuit against Cosby. The defense maintains Williams’ testimony upends Constand’s claims that she was ignorant of Cosby’s amorous feelings toward her and was an innocent victim in the encounter.

Prosecutors objected because they had no opportunity to cross-examine Williams when the deposition was taken in 2005.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony. If convicted of all three counts, he would likely face at most 10 years in prison as a first offender under state sentencing guidelines, although Pennsylvania law allows for a maximum penalty of three consecutive 10-year sentences, a prosecution spokeswoman said.

Constand filed a civil lawsuit after Pennsylvania prosecutors in 2005 initially declined to charge Cosby for the alleged assault. Cosby agreed to pay her $3.38 million to settle.

The jury was expected to hear more defense testimony on Monday and then closing legal arguments before beginning its deliberations. The first trial against Cosby ended in June when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Cosby’s defense has portrayed Constand as a money-hungry con artist and tried to cast doubt on Constand’s statements that the pills left her too impaired to resist.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)