Bill Cosby’s lawyers first pressured the judge in his sexual assault retrial to quit, and now they are counting on him to make rulings critical to their plan to portray the accuser as a greedy liar who framed the comedian to get rich.
Judge Steven O’Neill could rule as early as Friday on whether the defense can call a witness who claims Andrea Constand spoke about falsely accusing a celebrity before going to police with allegations Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Prosecutors said the theory that Constand wanted to set Cosby up is undermined by his testimony in a 2005 deposition that she only visited his home when invited and that he gave her pills without her asking for them.
The judge also will decide how much jurors will hear about Cosby’s financial settlement with Constand.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that the lawsuit and payment were the direct result of her scheming against him. Prosecutors said Cosby’s negotiators wanted to bar Constand from ever cooperating with law enforcement.
O’Neill remained on the case after rejecting the defense’s assertions on Thursday that he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker and advocate for assault victims.
O’Neill presided over Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year.
In arguing for the judge to step aside, Cosby’s lawyers pointed to a $100 donation made in his wife’s name to an organization that gave money to a group planning a protest outside of the retrial.
O’Neill said the contribution was made 13 months ago by the department where his wife works at the University of Pennsylvania and that Cosby’s lawyers held an antiquated view of marriage where spouses must agree on everything.
“How are my wife’s independent views of an independent woman connected to me?” O’Neill said. “She’s an independent woman and has the right to be involved in anything that she believes in.”
Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday and jurors will once again be sequestered at a hotel. Opening statements and testimony are not expected to get underway until April 9 at the earliest.