A judge will let only one other accuser testify at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial to bolster charges that the actor drugged and molested a woman at his estate near Philadelphia.
The pivotal ruling Friday by a Pennsylvania judge means prosecutors cannot call 12 other women to try to show that the 79-year-old comedian has a history of similar “bad acts.”
Cosby is set to go on trial in June over the 2005 complaint by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who is now a massage therapist in Toronto.
Prosecutors reopened the case in 2015 after newly released court documents showed Cosby admitting he gave drugs and alcohol to young women before sex over a 50-year period.
Prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia had asked the judge to let 13 other women testify, a list they developed after reviewing claims by nearly 50 of the accusers who have come forward in recent years. The defense objected to their testimony, saying the string of old “casting couch” claims are not unique to Cosby and therefore not part of “signature” behavior
Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he carefully weighed the witnesses’ value in providing relevant testimony versus the potential prejudice to Cosby.
The one witness who can testify says she was assaulted by Cosby in 1996 in Los Angeles.
Cosby’s criminal case involves a single encounter with Constand, a former Temple University basketball team employee who has given the media permission to identify her publicly. She told police he gave her three unmarked pills and then molested her as she drifted in and out of consciousness in early 2004. In a taped conversation with Constand’s mother a year later, Cosby described the sex act as “digital penetration” but refused to say what pills he had given her daughter. In his deposition, he said he had feared sounding like “a dirty old man” on the call.
The additional accuser who can testify worked for one of Cosby’s agents and had known the entertainer for six years when he invited her to lunch at his bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel to discuss her acting ambitions. She said he was in a robe and slippers when she arrived and offered her wine and a pill that she consumed after he reassured her it was safe. She said she then recalls him sexually assaulting her on his bed.
The defense says she went to the bungalow despite saying she had once rebuffed Cosby’s advances before and had no interest in acting.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail. He has attended about a half-dozen court hearings since his Dec. 30, 2015, arrest and is expected in court again Monday to ask that jurors be selected from another county because of pretrial publicity. O’Neill wants to start the trial by June 5.