NORRISTOWN — Lawyers for Bill Cosby want to prevent numerous women who accused the actor of uncharged sexual misconduct from testifying when he is sentenced in two weeks on charges he drugged and sexually assaulted one woman at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004.
“Evidence of uncharged conduct is not relevant in the sentencing of this defendant,” defense lawyer Joseph P. Green Jr. wrote in a document filed in Montgomery County Court on Monday.
Last week, county District Attorney Kevin R. Steele filed court papers asking Judge Steven T. O’Neill for permission to admit evidence at the actor’s Sept. 24 sentencing hearing of “uncharged criminal acts” allegedly committed by Cosby.
Steele hinted prosecutors intend “to present numerous witnesses who will testify that defendant sexually abused them” and claimed the witnesses will provide testimony that is relevant to the “proper assessment” of Cosby’s “character, background, dangerousness to the community and rehabilitative needs.”
Steele argued that under state law, information concerning alleged “uncharged criminal conduct” can be part of a sentencing hearing “even if it involved a different victim and did not result in conviction.”
But Steele did not reveal how many women he intends to call as witnesses during the sentencing hearing. Dozens of women previously accused the actor, once known as “America’s Dad,” of sexual misconduct.
Green suggested such testimony would be “unfairly prejudicial, distracting and wasteful of the court’s time.”
“The defendant has a statutory right of confrontation at sentencing, and the suggestion that unnamed witnesses should be permitted to testify about unspecified misconduct occurring years before trial violates that right to effective confrontation and related procedural guarantees,” Green wrote in court papers.
Green asked the judge to deny Steele’s request.
“The court should act decisively here to prevent that ‘circus atmosphere’ that would be engendered by such a presentation,” Green wrote.
It’s unclear if Judge O’Neill will hold a hearing on the matter before Cosby’s sentencing hearing commences.
O’Neill has set aside Sept. 24 and 25 for what is expected to be the most-watched sentencing hearing ever in a county courtroom. The sentencing hearing is expected to attract worldwide media attention.
Cosby, who turned 81 in July, faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison on the three counts of aggravated indecent assault of which he was convicted by a jury in April. However, state sentencing guidelines could allow for a lesser sentence.
Green, of West Chester, is being assisted by lawyer Peter Goldberger of Ardmore. Cosby retained Green in June.
Green replaced lawyers Thomas Mesereau Jr. and Becky James, of Los Angeles, Kathleen Bliss, of Las Vegas, and Lane Vines, of Philadelphia, who represented Cosby during his April retrial.
A jury of seven men and five women deliberated about 14 hours over two days before convicting Cosby on April 26 of the three felony charges in connection with sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, after plying her with “three blue pills,” at his Cheltenham mansion in January 2004.
O’Neill has allowed Cosby to remain free on bail, 10 percent of $1 million, to await sentencing. The judge said the entertainer must wear an electronic monitoring device while he remains free. Cosby cannot leave the state without approval of the judge.
It was the second trial for Cosby. Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 ended in a mistrial when a jury selected from Allegheny County couldn’t reach a verdict.
During the 14-day retrial in April, the jury comprised of Montgomery County residents found that Cosby sexually assaulted Constand while she was unconscious and without her consent.
During the retrial, Steele was permitted to call five additional women, who accused Cosby of sexual misconduct between the years 1982 and 1996, to testify, including model Janice Dickinson, who testified Cosby raped her during a 1982 meeting in his hotel room in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. During Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 O’Neill permitted only one other accuser to testify.
During the retrial, Steele and co-prosecutors Kristen Feden and M. Stewart Ryan described Cosby as a trusted mentor who betrayed the friendship he had with Constand and said the criminal case was “about trust…about betrayal.” Prosecutors alleged Cosby plied Constand with “three blue pills” and proceeded to sexually assault her while she visited his home to discuss her career.
Prosecutors argued Constand did not have the ability to consent to sexual contact.
Constand, 45, of Ontario, Canada, testifying 7 ½ hours over two days, said after taking the blue pills she began slurring her words and was unable to fight off Cosby’s sexual advances. The former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University claimed Cosby guided her to a couch, where she passed out.
Constand testified she was “jolted” awake to find Cosby touching her breasts, digitally penetrating her and forcing her to touch his penis, all without her consent.
Constand didn’t report the incident to police until January 2005, about a year after it occurred. Constand was 30 and Cosby was in his 60s at the time of the assault.
Cosby, who did not testify during his first trial or at the retrial, maintained the contact he had with Constand was consensual.
During the retrial, Mesereau, who successfully represented singer Michael Jackson on molestation charges in 2004, portrayed Constand as greedy and “a pathological liar” who had a financial motive to lie about a sexual assault.
For the first time publicly, it was revealed during the retrial that Cosby entered into a $3,380,000 civil settlement with Constand in October 2006. Judge O’Neill ruled that evidence of the civil settlement between Cosby and Constand was admissible evidence at the criminal trial.
The trial represented the first time Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, had been charged with a crime despite allegations from dozens of women who claimed they were assaulted by the entertainer.