Cosby urges judge to toss sex-assault case, citing shaky evidence, health

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Actor and comedian Bill Cosby on Thursday resumed his bid to have his sexual assault case thrown out, arguing that the 11-year delay in his prosecution will make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

Bill Cosby's sexual-assault case rose out of a "perfect storm" of mob mentality, political ambition, fame-hungry lawyers, and a faulty ruling from a federal judge, his lawyers argued Thursday in their latest bid to have the charges against him thrown out.

What's more, they said, the 79-year-old entertainer can no longer defend himself against the claims of more than a dozen women who may be enlisted as prosecution witnesses because his memory is too faded, his eyesight is too poor, and their allegations are too old to vet.

"The time has come for the court to put an end to this tempest," lawyers Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa wrote in a motion, filed in Montgomery County Court.

Their filing retread many arguments already rejected by Common Pleas Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill, who has set a June 5 trial date.

But in their efforts to dress them in a different veneer, Cosby's lawyers offered a few striking claims and personal shots at central figures in the case.

Among them: Cosby is too blind to recognize any of the 13 women whom prosecutors have signaled they will call to bolster the allegations of the central accuser, Andrea Constand.

They also noted that most of the accusers asked to testify are white women, and accused the District Attorney's Office of playing into racist tropes. "The commonwealth's choice preys upon subconscious (or perhaps conscious) beliefs that a white woman is less likely to consent to sex with a black man," they wrote.

The filing also paints District Attorney Kevin R. Steele as a demagogue who trampled on Cosby's reputation to win election last year. Now, "fueled by political success and the Montgomery County taxpayers' money, [he] is pursuing stale charges against a 79-year-old blind man," it said.

The defense calls Gloria Allred, whose clients include several Cosby accusers, "a spotlight-loving lawyer" and "the self-proclaimed most famous woman attorney practicing law in the nation today."

And it argues that U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno used a "legally unsound, novel rationale" when he decided last year to unseal damaging excerpts from Cosby's 2005 deposition in a civil case Constand filed against him. The release of those excerpts helped revive the criminal case against Cosby.

"Numerous actors - the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; a federal judge with a baseless theory; a lawyer who parades her clients' untimely, unverifiable claims before the media; and a district attorney who publicly branded a celebrity for his own political gain - created a perfect storm of prejudice, bias, and delay that requires dismissal of the stale charges against Bill Cosby," McMonagle and Agrusa wrote.

But at its heart, the lawyers' argument Thursday rested on two broad claims, both of which O'Neill dismissed at an earlier stage of the case: that Steele ignored an oral promise from his predecessor that Cosby would never be charged, and that too much time has passed between 2005 - when Constand first reported her alleged assault to police - and now for Cosby to present an effective defense.

To support the latter claim, Cosby's lawyers pointed to the entertainer's declining health, poor eyesight, and faulty memory, but also cited roadblocks the 11-year delay posed in their efforts to debunk the accounts of the 13 other women.

"One of the commonwealth's proposed witnesses claims that her agent arranged for her to have dinner with Mr. Cosby in Toronto, Canada, in 1969. Her agent died in 2011," the motion read. "She claims they dined with a famous football player. He died in 2012. The restaurant where she claims they dined closed in 1990."

Thursday's motion is the first of several Cosby's attorneys are expected to file before trial. They have also signaled they will seek a change of venue, citing negative publicity surrounding Cosby's arrest.

Prosecutors, in a statement responding to the defense filing, said they remained confident in their case. "The motion filed today is primarily a rebranding of the same failed arguments the Cosby defense team has previously put forth," it read.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault tied to Constand's claims that he drugged and assaulted her during a visit to his Cheltenham home in 2004.

He has described their liaison as a consensual sexual encounter and denied the charges.

jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608 @jeremyrroebuck