Bill Cosby trial

Shouty Bill Cosby hearing: Prosecutor, defense clash over what’s allowed

Arguments over testimony from 13 past accusers will conclude tomorrow.

Bill Cosby returns to court Tuesday, December 13, 2016 in Norristown, PA for what is expected to be a two-day hearing in the accused comedian's latest attempt to get sexual assault charges against him dismissed.

Bill Cosby returns to court Tuesday, December 13, 2016 in Norristown, PA for what is expected to be a two-day hearing in the accused comedian's latest attempt to get sexual assault charges against him dismissed.

Pool Photo by DAVID MAIALETTI / The Philadelphia Inquirer
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NORRISTOWN — Bill Cosby was grinning.

After hours and hours of disagreements about evidence for this hearing over whether testimony from 13 prior sexual assault accusers could be used against the disgraced comedian, the prosecution finally began arguing its reasoning for why those alleged prior assaults constituted a pattern. When Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele started talking about the case of alleged accuser no. 10, which stemmed from the late 1960s in Sausalito, Calif., Cosby leaned back in his chair and grinned.

At another point, when Judge Kevin T. O’Neill asked Steele for the defendant’s date of birth, Cosby shouted out “1937” and “July 12.” That followed a comment of “don’t tase me bro” he made to security while entering the courtroom. It all amounted to a contentious and odd day.

Cosby wasn’t the only one breaking character from his behavior of previous hearings. Steele, who normally litigates with the demeanor of a librarian, raised his voice several times, leading Judge Kevin T. O’Neill to demand he and Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle be more civil.

All of the disagreements bogged down the proceedings. Indeed, today’s hearing was supposed to be an argument about the admissibility of earlier sexual assault accusations. Instead it was mostly arguments about what should and could be argued, including not just a tiff over a PowerPoint but the way the screen that would display said PowerPoint was tilted.

Hours after originally bringing up the PowerPoint as part of a discussion of why names of the accusers shouldn’t be used in court or in entered evidence, Steele yelled, “They have a PowerPoint. It’s not even facing the court.”

He pointed to the audience: “It’s facing this way.”   

McMonagle shouted back, “We didn’t even put it up. You put it up.”

O’Neill said a court administrator had wheeled the display in the courtroom. So neither side had done it.

The shouting match had essentially been going on since 9 a.m. Steele had begun the day objecting outright to the defense submitting two binders of evidence, largely because accusers were named in the evidence and on the PowerPoint slides, surprising O’Neill and Cosby’s lawyers. Disputes over parts of evidence in those binders went on for five hours.   

By 3 p.m., O’Neill finally signaled for the argument phase of the hearing to begin. He told each side it could take as long as it needed and each would have the opportunity for a rebuttal. The prosecution went first.   

Steele made clear the state intends to prove testimony from the 13 previous accusers is allowed because their allegations of sexual assault and sexual contact follow a similar pattern to what happened with former Temple employee Andrea Constand, the alleged accuser in the prosecution’s case. After an invitation to his Cheltenham mansion in 2004, Cosby allegedly drugged and then digitally penetrated Constand and forced her to touch his penis.  

“We are seeking to admit not his criminal propensity,” Steele said, “but…to demonstrate absence of mistake and to show a common plan, scheme or design.”

He then went through the accounts of several of the prior accusers’ claims, pointing out similarities such as a substantial age difference, meeting the women through their employers, becoming friends with the women before the alleged assaults and allegedly assaulting them “in an environment that he controls.”

Steele had gotten to accuser no. 11 when O’Neill halted the proceedings for the day. Court resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m., and both sides are expected to complete their arguments.