December 13, 2016 / 11:04 AM / 3 years ago

Cosby's lawyers, prosecutors clash in court over female accusers

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Lawyers for Bill Cosby and Pennsylvania prosecutors clashed angrily in court on Tuesday over whether the defense team was deliberately trying to intimidate women who have accused the entertainer of sexual assault.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele contended defense attorneys were trying to “manipulate” Cosby’s upcoming criminal trial by publicly naming the 13 accusers prosecutors want to call to prove Cosby was a serial abuser of women.

Cosby’s reputation as a family-friendly entertainer has suffered from allegations by about 50 women that he sexually assaulted them in a series of alleged attacks dating back decades.

The actor, 79, only faces criminal charges in the Pennsylvania case involving Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at his alma mater. Cosby has denied wrongdoing.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Steele noted that a screen set up to show a defense presentation was angled toward an audience that included a sizable number of journalists.

“They want to stick them up on a PowerPoint so everyone in here can see!” Steele said.

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle accused Steele of positioning the screen before pointing out that 11 of the women have already publicly identified themselves.

Bill Cosby (R), exits an elevator as he returns to court for a hearing where his lawyers are expected to renew their battle with prosecutors over whether more than a dozen female accusers can testify at his criminal sexual trial next year, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, December 13, 2016. REUTERS/DavidMaialetti/Pool

Judge Steven O’Neill interrupted the shouting match, saying that a court official had put up the screen.

“You don’t want to get involved with the sheriffs here, if you two can’t control yourselves,” O’Neill said.

Constand has accused Cosby of giving her pills and wine at his home in 2004 before sexually assaulting her.

If prosecutors are successful in persuading the judge to allow the 13 alleged victims, Cosby would face a parade of witnesses portraying him as a serial predator.

Typically, prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of unrelated “prior bad acts.” But Pennsylvania law allows it if the previous instances show a clear pattern of behavior.

“The defendant has engaged over the course of decades in a signature pattern of nonconsensual sexual assaults on young women,” Steele said.

O’Neill has already ruled prosecutors can use sworn testimony Cosby delivered in 2005 in which he said he gave women Quaaludes before engaging in consensual sexual acts.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Cosby, who according to his lawyers is blind, appeared to pay close attention. When O’Neill wondered when Cosby’s birthday was, he answered in a voice that carried through the courtroom: “1937, July 12.”

Later, Steele described an alleged assault at the Drake Hotel, saying he believed the hotel was located in New York.

“No, the Drake is in Chicago,” Cosby announced.

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Sandra Maler and Tom Brown

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