Bill Cosby’s legal team won two key rulings in the comedian’s retrial on sexual assault charges Tuesday morning that will likely help bolster their aggressive efforts to portray Cosby’s primary accuser as a gold-digging opportunist who once talked of framing a celebrity.
By Tuesday, seven jurors had been seated -- two white women, three white men, one African-American man and one African-American woman. Judge Steven T. O’Neill is seeking a pool of 12 jurors and six alternates.
O’Neill ruled that Marguerite Jackson, who worked with primary accuser Andrea Constand at Temple University, can testify that she once heard Constand muse about framing a celebrity to “get money” for school or to start a business.
O’Neill, who had barred her testimony during the original trial last summer that ended in a hung jury, calling it hearsay, did not elaborate in his ruling as to why he had changed course.
O’Neill also ruled that the defense can reveal to the jury the still-undisclosed amount of a 2006 civil settlement Cosby reached with Constand -- but he won’t allow the prosecution to introduce evidence about the months of negotiations that led to the settlement.
Cosby stands accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand during a visit she made to his Pennsylvania home in 2004. He has denied the claims and said any sexual encounters he ever had with women were consensual.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that among the stipulations Cosby sought from Constand during three months of talks was a request to absolve him of criminal liability and not voluntarily cooperate with future law enforcement investigations about the alleged 2004 attack. They say these requests -- which Constand rejected -- demonstrate a guilty conscience.
Citing Cosby’s requests of Constand, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele argued last month in court papers that the comedian “cannot on the one hand attempt to paint Ms. Constand as 'greedy' for filing and successfully settling a civil lawsuit against him and at the same time sanitize the jury from the evidence of his own guilty conscience.”
During the negotiations, Cosby also asked Constand to destroy once-sealed depositions he gave to her lawyers in 2006 in which he acknowledged giving quaaludes to a young woman prior to a sexual encounter. The deposition was unsealed in 2015, and the drug testimony read into evidence. O’Neill said he will decide during the trial -- scheduled to start on Monday -- whether that portion of testimony will be admitted this time around.
There is no allegation in the current case that Cosby gave Constand quaaludes, only that he gave her unidentified pills -- which he later said were the cold medicine Benadryl -- that made her pass out while he allegedly sexually assaulted her.