Judge Rules Cosby Accuser Will Not Have to Testify Before Trial

Cosby and the defense team contested "hearsay" in felony sex assault case.

ByRicki Harris and Linsey Davis
July 07, 2016, 11:23 PM

— -- A woman accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault will not have to testify at a preliminary hearing before trial, a judge ruled Thursday, a move blasted by the comedian's legal team.

Cosby’s lawyers wanted to cross-examine accuser Andrea Constand because they said her statements about the alleged 2004 incident –- made 11 years ago -- raised questions about the case. But Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill ruled Cosby, 78, did not have the right to confront her at a preliminary hearing and the trial can move forward.

Though sexual assault victims do not generally testify in pretrial hearings, a Pennsylvania law designed to spare alleged victims from repeated court appearances is currently under review by the state Supreme Court, giving the defense an opportunity to challenge the ruling.

Cosby is charged with sexual assault, and has not yet entered a plea.

Constand went to police in 2005 after an alleged incident that occurred in Cosby’s Philadelphia home in 2004, but no charges were filed. She claimed that Cosby drugged and molested her. Cosby maintains that he gave Benadryl to Constand because she'd complained about sleep trouble and says their contact was consensual.

Authorities re-opened the case last year.

"Once again, the prosecution had the opportunity and the obligation to place Mr. Cosby's accuser under oath so that we can search for the truth, but they refused,” his lawyers told ABC News in a statement. They added that they believe the decision will be reversed on appeal.

Cosby's legal team has repeatedly denied the allegations and said he would be vindicated.

However, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said that the defense was mistaken in their belief they could challenge the victim before trial.

"This isn't a place to have a victim of sexual assault be re-victimized again," Steele said, adding that the defense will be able to confront witnesses during the trial.

In a pretrial hearing on May 24, police read excerpts from Constand’s statements. The judge then ruled the felony sex-assault charges could move forward to trial. Cosby’s team argues that the police statements are hearsay, and that the ruling therefore wasn’t fair because Constand herself didn’t testify.

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