Bill Cosby trial

Inside Bill Cosby’s incredibly short court hearing, and the drama before and after

This afternoon’s hearing lasted fewer than 10 minutes, but the event turned the Philly suburb of about 20,000 into a circus for at least a couple of hours.

Bill Cosby mugshot

Bill Cosby mugshot

It sounded and looked like a manhunt outside the tiny courtroom in Elkins Park.

Police vehicles with flashing lights barricaded the normally quiet neighborhood roads that led to the courthouse. Helicopters from Philadelphia TV stations buzzed overhead. Photographers positioned themselves on stools to get the best angles.  

All the commotion was for Bill Cosby, who turned himself in this afternoon on three felony charges of aggravated indecent assault from an incident against former Temple employee Andrea Constand in 2004. His bail was set at $1 million, and he paid the necessary 10 percent of it before the arraignment even began. His preliminary hearing was set for this afternoon and the proceedings lasted fewer than 10 minutes, but the event turned this MontCo suburb of about 20,000 into a circus for at least a couple of hours.

Cosby rode to the courthouse in a black SUV. His house, located about a mile away, was quiet beforehand. About an hour before the arraignment, just one cameraman stood outside the gated property where prosecutors say he drugged and assaulted Constand. Cosby would find the exact opposite waiting for him at the courtroom.

NBC and CBS national news had reporters and videographers there, as did New York stations like Fox 5 and ABC 7 and every major media outlet from Philadelphia. Four TV trucks were stationed outside the courthouse. Another two TV trucks waited for Cosby at the Cheltenham police station, where he was processed and had his mugshot taken after the arraignment.

Cosby crowd
Mark Dent/Billy Penn

Several locals walked by the scene and stood outside. As Cosby passed by the crowd — almost at 2:30 sharp — a few people yelled “monster.”   

He wore a salt-and-pepper hooded sweater, black pants and gray Sorel shoes, and walked with an unsteady hobble, a cane in his left hand. Rather than use it, however, a member of his defense team held his arm, escorting him in and giving him directions of when there was a step and which direction to turn. She pulled out a chair for him and helped him sit down. The room was so full of reporters she had to find an extra chair just so she could join Cosby at the table for the defense.

Tabloids have previously reported he’s going blind, and he exhibited signs of diminished vision Wednesday. When he signed court papers, his lawyer had to help him hold the pen.

Cosby barely spoke during the arraignment. He answered yes when District Judge Elizabeth McHugh asked if he understood the charges and the bail agreements. McHugh said that as part of the bail Cosby couldn’t contact Constand under any circumstance, not even by “tweeting or twittering.”

McHugh told Cosby his bail could be revoked if he broke the terms by contacting the victim. She asked him if he understood. Cosby appeared to laugh slightly before saying yes.       

“Good luck to you sir,” McHugh said to end the proceeding.

Cosby responded thank you. Then he hobbled out with a lawyer on his arm.

The location for the preliminary hearing is scheduled to be this same courthouse in Elkins Park, but McHugh said that will likely change. This courthouse and neighborhood probably can’t consistently handle the type of crowd that will come to watch Cosby in the only criminal charge he faces, despite accusations against him from at least 60 women.

Want some more? Explore other Bill Cosby trial stories.

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