judge to hear arguments on moving Cosby criminal trial
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[February 27, 2017]
By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - Lawyers for
comedian Bill Cosby return to court on Monday to argue
that his sexual assault case has drawn too much
publicity to allow for a fair criminal trial in
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill will hear arguments on
what appears to be the only major pretrial issue remaining in
Cosby's sexual assault case, three days after he ruled that
prosecutors can call a second accuser as a witness. The trial is
scheduled for June.
Cosby, 79, is facing charges that he sexually assaulted Andrea
Constand, a former assistant basketball coach at his alma mater
Temple University, in 2004.
The case is the only criminal prosecution resulting from
accusations against the entertainer by more than four dozen
women, though the deluge of allegations has shattered his once
Cosby has denied any wrongdoing and has said his encounter with
Constand, like the others, was consensual.
Cosby's lawyers have argued in court papers for either moving
the trial to another Pennsylvania county, known as a change in
venue, or importing jurors to Montgomery County from elsewhere
in the state, known as a change in venire.
The defense noted that Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin
Steele, who is leading the prosecution, campaigned in 2015 by
criticizing a predecessor for failing to pursue the Cosby case.
The resulting news coverage has made selecting an impartial jury
from the county impossible, they argued.
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Prosecutors oppose moving the trial but have consented to a change
in venire. However, they have balked at Cosby's suggestion that only
a county with more than 1.2 million people can yield a large enough
jury pool to ensure fairness.
In court filings, Steele has pointed out that only Pittsburgh and
Philadelphia meet that criterion and said the defense appears to be
shopping for a favorable jury.
Under state law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court selects the new
county when a judge approves a change of venire.
On Friday, in a blow to Cosby's defense, O'Neill ruled that
prosecutors could call at trial another woman who has accused him of
a similar assault in the 1990s. The district attorney's office had
sought to call as many as 13 other women.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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