Judge: Prosecutors can use Cosby’s deposition at trial

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Damaging testimony that Bill Cosby gave in an accuser’s lawsuit, including admissions that he gave young women drugs and alcohol before sex, can be used at his criminal sex assault trial, a judge ruled Monday.

The defense had insisted that Cosby only testified after being promised he wouldn’t be charged over his 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand. But his lawyers at the time never had an immunity agreement or put anything in writing.

“This court concludes that there was neither an agreement nor a promise not to prosecute, only an exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill wrote in his ruling.

Cosby, 79, acknowledged in the 2006 deposition that he had a string of extramarital relationships with young women. He called them consensual, but many of the women say they were drugged and molested.

The release of the deposition testimony last year prompted prosecutors to reopen Constand’s 2005 criminal complaint.

Cosby, asked about the 2004 encounter at his home with Constand, described being on his couch and putting his hand down her pants.

“I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped,” he testified.

Prosecutors describe Constand as being semiconscious after Cosby gave her three unmarked blue pills for stress.

The ruling on the deposition is one of two key pretrial issues that will determine the scope of the evidence against Cosby at trial. The other question is how many other accusers will be allowed to testify in prosecutors’ attempt to show a pattern of similar conduct. Prosecutors hope to call 13 additional women who say they were assaulted by Cosby as far back as the 1960s. Two days of arguments on that issue are set for next week.

The release of the deposition testimony last year prompted prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia to reopen accuser Constand’s criminal complaint and charge Cosby with felony sexual assault.

O’Neill has suggested that Cosby’s decision to testify at the deposition could have been strategic. The actor — known as America’s Dad for his top-rated family sitcom, “The Cosby Show,” which ran from 1984 to 1992 — could have invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. But jurors would have heard of that decision if the case went to trial.

Cosby instead settled Constand’s lawsuit, for an undisclosed amount, after finishing four days of testimony about his extramarital affairs, his friendship with Constand and other topics.

In another excerpt, Cosby described a phone call with Constand’s mother a year later, when he refused to say what the pills were.

“I’m not going to argue with somebody’s mother who is accusing me of something,” he testified. “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.”

Cosby also described getting seven prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s, which he said he kept on hand to give women he hoped to seduce, “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.'”

Constand had met Cosby at Temple University when she managed the women’s basketball team. He was a prominent booster and university trustee. She went to police in 2005 to report that he had sexually assaulted after taking what Cosby described as an herbal product.

The defense will fight strenuously to block the testimony of the other women, arguing that their accounts are vague, decades old and impossible to defend. They also say Cosby is legally blind and can no longer recognize his accusers or help with the defense.

 

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