PHILADELPHIA — The judge who presided over Bill Cosby's criminal case said he let five other accusers testify at the sex-assault trial because their accounts had "chilling similarities" that pointed to a "signature" crime.
A jury last year convicted Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, after hearing from her and the five others. Cosby, 81, is appealing his conviction based on the women's testimony and other key rulings by Montgomery County Judge Stephen O'Neill.
Cosby began serving a three- to 10-year prison term in September at a state prison near Philadelphia.
O'Neill, in a lengthy opinion filed Tuesday, said he found "striking similarities" in the women's descriptions of their encounters with the comedian long beloved as "America's Dad."
"In each instance, (he) met a substantially younger woman, gained her trust, invited her to a place where he was alone with her, provided her with a drink or drug, and sexually assaulted her once she was rendered incapacitated," O'Neill wrote. "These chilling similarities rendered (their) testimony admissible."
O'Neill had allowed just one other accuser to testify at Cosby's first trial in June 2017, when a jury deadlock led to a mistrial. Cosby was retried in April 2018, months after the #MeToo movement burst into view with sexual asssault accusations against director Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in Hollywood and beyond.
In the ruling Tuesday, O'Neill said the new
Castor had investigated Constand's complaint for about a month in 2005 before deciding not to bring a case, questioning why she waited a year to contact police. Before the year was out, 13 other accusers had come forward to support the lawsuit Constand filed against Cosby. He settled the case for $3.4 million.
When Cosby's deposition from the lawsuit became public in 2015, and the criminal case was reopened, Castor for the first time told his successor about the supposed "non-prosecution" agreement. He forwarded their correspondence to Cosby's
O'Neill also rejected
Cosby's latest team of lawyers has been awaiting the opinion so they can proceed with the appeal in Pennsylvania courts. The lead lawyer, Brian Perry, did not immediately return a phone message on Tuesday.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, in a statement, said "O'Neill has a habitual habit of always trying to cover his many errors, which continues to show his hatred towards Mr. Cosby."
The Associated Press does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.
Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press
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