NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby has questions for the woman accusing him of sexual assault.
He wants her in a courtroom. In the witness chair. On the spot. On the record.
But the Pennsylvania prosecutors trying to send the 78-year-old comedian to prison don’t want to give Cosby what he’s looking for – at least not until the case goes to trial. The prosecutors argued in a crowded suburban Philadelphia courtroom Thursday that they’ve offered enough evidence through the testimony of police detectives to meet the low bar required to nudge the criminal case against Cosby to the next stage: a full-blown trial in front of a jury.
The legal duel playing out here is the latest chapter in an intense series of courtroom confrontations in the case of Cosby, who is charged with aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball official, in 2004. A magistrate judge ruled last month that Cosby must stand trial. But the comedian’s defense team is attempting to persuade Steven T. O’Neill, the presiding judge in the case, to erase that decision and dismiss the case against Cosby or force prosecutors to call Constand as a witness, instead of relying on police notes from interviews with the alleged victim.
“We shouldn’t just be relying on what someone said someone said,” Cosby defense attorney Christopher Tayback argued. “We have to have some meaningful opportunity to ask questions.”
O’Neill seemed somewhat doubtful about that argument, questioning whether the defense was asking to “give us an early shot at” questioning Constand and find out what she would say at trial.
At issue is a hearsay rule that prosecutors say allows them to establish that a case can be taken to trial without calling the alleged victim to the witness stand. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering whether that rule is proper, but it has yet to decide.
Cosby entered the courtroom in a tan suit and brown pants, leaning on the arm of a public relations agent and flanked by a burly bodyguard. In his left hand, he carried a slender wooden cane. Cosby, whose eyesight is failing after a years-long battle with glaucoma, has appeared detached at some hearings related to his case.
But Thursday, he seemed more alert and vigorous. When he arrived at the defense table, he broke into a big smile as he greeted his lead attorney, Brian McMonagle. McMonagle reached over and rubbed his client’s shoulder. And they shared a chuckle.