With a Pennsylvania judge today ruling that only one other woman can testify in Bill Cosby’s criminal case over the alleged 2004 sexual assault of then-Temple University employee Andrea Constand, the much accused comedian has gotten a bit of a legal break.
Still facing a trial set to start in June and potentially a decade behind bars and fines if found guilty of three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault, today’s ruling means the 79-year-old Cosby will not have to face testimony from a dozen other women who have claimed the actor assaulted or drugged them over the decades.
In a blow for Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele’s desire to show Cosby’s pattern of “prior bad acts,” Judge Steven O’Neil’s order slices the number of additional alleged victims who may take the stand in addition to Constand from 13 to one. “It is hereby ORDERED and DECREED that the Commonwealth’s Motion is GRANTED as to Prior Alleged Victim Six and DENIED as to Prior Alleged Victims One through Five and Seven through Thirteen,” said the order released this morning (read it here).
That “alleged victim six” is a former assistant to Cosby’s ex-William Morris agent Tom Illius. Represented by attorney Gloria Allred, the woman has said that The Cosby Show star assaulted her in 1996 in L.A., much more recently that the other claimants.
“Although I agree with the prosecutor’s previous argument that it would have been important for the jury to hear the testimony of all 13 prior bad act witnesses, I am glad that at least one such witness will be able to testify in this case,” Allred said Friday after O’Neil’s order was made public. “We recognize that the Court was required to weigh the probative value versus the prejudicial value of such testimony and other factors in order to make this decision.”
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt said the actor had “no comment at this present time.”
Nearly a year after criminal charges against Cosby were laid by the then newly elected Steele, the actors’ latest set of lawyers and the local D.A.’s office squared off in two days of hearings in December over whether the 13 women should be allowed to testify. Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle said that that the other women have “no business” in the case. He also added in the courtroom that “the allegations here cannot be defended,” noting the differences in circumstances and other material matters between the claims of sexual assault and drugging of the 13 accusers and Constand nearly 13 years ago.
The decision today comes just three days before Cosby, his lawyers and the Montgomery County D.A. are scheduled to meet again in court for a hearing on the defense’s attempt to get the trial venue changed. This is the latest in a series of tactics Cosby’s team has made over the past year to either have the case tossed or stymied.