Unless you’ve been living for a while in a place without any outside communication, you’ve heard about entertainer Bill Cosby being charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania. Pre-trial proceedings are ongoing, and Cosby’s attorneys dodged a huge bullet the other day.
Cosby is charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault back in 2004 against a former college student he mentored. The woman claims that Cosby drugged her and then molested her. Cosby says the sexual encounter was consensual.
After the allegations surfaced, more than a dozen other women came forward with similar stories, all claiming that years earlier Cosby had drugged and/or raped them. Criminal charges based upon the additional allegations were barred under Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations. However, the prosecution was jumping through hoops trying to get all the women in front of the jury at Cosby’s trial. If all the other women (13 in total) were permitted to testify, you can readily see how devastating it could be for the defense. This is why the recent pre-trial motion by the prosecution to admit the testimony as evidence at the trial was so important.
The prosecution argued that the testimony was relevant. The defense argued that even if it were relevant, the probative value of that testimony, if the judge allowed all the women to testify, would be outweighed by the prejudice to the defendant. The judge, after balancing those competing interests, found that only one of the additional accusers would be permitted to testify at Cosby’s trial.
If the prosecution’s entire motion were granted, it is easy to imagine the effect on Cosby’s defense. There would have been a parade of witnesses – more than a dozen in total – who would testify that Cosby essentially did to them what he is accused of doing to the complaining witness in the criminal case. As it turns out, with the long delay in the filing of charges – over a decade – and only a single additional accuser to contend with, proof beyond a reasonable doubt may be more difficult to prove. The trial is set to commence in June.
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