Judge: Cosby's accuser doesn't have to testify before trial

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Posted: Jul 07, 2016 7:20 PM
Judge: Cosby's accuser doesn't have to testify before trial

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A judge on Thursday denied Bill Cosby's bid to force his sex-assault accuser to testify before trial, ruling prosecutors worked within the law by using police statements as a stand-in for her at his preliminary hearing.

Cosby's lawyers argued they should've been allowed to cross-examine accuser Andrea Constand at the May 24 hearing because her decade-old statements about the 2004 encounter raised more questions than it answered.

But Judge Steven T. O'Neill said that a 2013 change in state court rules cleared the way for prosecutors to use those statements and other evidence in lieu of forcing Constand to take the witness stand before trial.

Prosecutors applauded the judge's decision.

"The defense operated around a mistaken belief that they had a right to confront the victim at this stage," District Attorney Kevin Steele told reporters afterward. "They do not."

Cosby's lawyers said they'd appeal to the state Supreme Court, which is considering another case involving preliminary hearing testimony. They said the 78-year-old Cosby's constitutional rights had been "trampled upon once again."

The judge, as he ruled, said, "One side sees this as an efficient way to handle cases. The other sees it as a violation of due process."

He seconded the findings of the judge in Cosby's preliminary hearing, saying prosecutors had presented enough evidence to send the case to trial.

Cosby is charged with felony indecent assault and accused of drugging and molesting Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home.

Authorities reopened the case last year after learning he had acknowledged in a deposition that he had given Constand pills and then engaged in sex acts with her. They also considered the dozens of other women who have raised similar claims in the decade since Constand went to police in 2005.

"Justice has been delayed too long," Steele said, adding: "If I was able to, I'd pick a jury tomorrow."

Steele read excerpts from Cosby's deposition in court and said his graphic description of the encounter shows "consciousness of guilt."

Constand told police the drugs left her semiconscious and unable to move and her lawyers believe Cosby gave her something stronger than Benadryl.

Steele compared Cosby's behavior with that of a date rapist who spikes a victim's drink.

"She is not in a state that she is able to consent to any of this," Steele said in court.

Cosby rubbed his hand on his face and leaned back in his chair, lightly rapping his wooden cane against the carpet as the hearing wore on. He chatted with an aide as he departed.

The man once known as America's Dad for his beloved portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his top-ranked 1980s TV show is fighting Constand and other accusers in civil court, where he has been sued for defamation.

The Associated Press does not normally identify people who say they were victims of sex crimes unless they agree to be named publicly, which Constand has done.

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Follow Maryclaire Dale at twitter.com/maryclairedale and Mike Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak. Their work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org and at twitter.com/APEastRegion

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This story has been corrected to show the year of the state Superior Court ruling was 2013, not 2015.