Last year the public learned that Bill Cosby admitted he regularly bought Quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex with.
Will a jury get to hear about it too?
Lawyers in the Bill Cosby sexual assault case spent Tuesday morning arguing whether a deposition the comedian gave in a 2005 civil proceeding should be admissible in his upcoming criminal trial.
Central to that deposition is the revelation that Cosby bought drugs for the women — he answered yes to that question from the plaintiff's lawyer.
As the famous defendant sat in court Tuesday, his lead attorney, Brian McMonagle, said the deposition — which was given in a civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand, who accused him of sexual assault — should be suppressed because Cosby gave it under the presumption he wouldn't be prosecuted.
“At the time they let him sit for the deposition, the promise had been made,” McMonagle said, alluding to a guarantee the defense says former Montgomery County Dist. Atty. Bruce Castor made to Cosby's late lawyer Walter Phillips.
The prosecution contends that there was no such promise and that the civil testimony was thus given with no conditions.
Cosby has been charged with three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault as a result of sexual contact with former Temple University basketball staffer Constand in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby maintains the acts were consensual; the prosecution argues they weren’t. Cosby is set to stand trial in June.
The deposition is considered extremely helpful to the prosecution's case. Though officially sealed, portions of it were reported by the Associated Press in July last year after the organization went to court. Among the revelations was his drug-buying modus operandi — an admission that could move the needle with a jury. Cosby did not answer a question about whether he gave any women the drugs without their knowledge.
It's possible that even if the deposition is allowed, Cosby's lawyers could argue the specific Quaalude section should be barred from the courtroom because it pertains to past instances of alleged assault.
For his part, Asst. District Assistant Dist. Atty. M. Stewart Ryan — often bolstered by Judge Steven O'Neill's questioning of McMonagle — argued that lawyers made no request to formalize immunity for Cosby before the deposition. That suggested, he said, immunity was not a factor in why Cosby testified.
The proceedings Tuesday were the beginning of a four-day set of hearings scheduled for November and December that will set the rules for the Cosby trial — or determine whether one will proceed at all.
Among the other motions being heard is a bid by the defense to dismiss the case because of a delay in arresting Cosby for more than a decade, and a motion by the prosecution to allow 13 other accusers to testify against Cosby under the so-called Prior Bad Acts clause.
The latter issue has been especially scrutinized outside the courtroom. Many of the dozens of women who've come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault have seen the statute of limitations on their cases expire. The opportunity for them to testify would amount to a de facto day in court, victims’ rights advocates say.
One of the lead voices is Los Angeles lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents several of the women who've made the allegations. Allred was a spectator in the courtroom Thursday.
For his part, Cosby entered and exited the courtroom tentatively, led by an attendant around objects and corners. His defense team says he is blind.
Meanwhile, the deposition debate led to some theatrical moments, particularly over how the defense might be able to prove, without any apparent witnesses, a promise in the civil lawsuit not to prosecute.
The judge repeatedly pressed McMonagle on the fact that Phillips, the one person who may have heard any such guarantee, was no longer around to testify.
McMonagle replied, “I want to go over and ask Walter Phillips what happened,” banging an empty chair to symbolize Phillips' absence. “But he’s dead. And he’s dead because they waited 12 years to bring this prosecution."