Judge agrees to delay Cosby retrial into 2018

Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown after a brief pretrial hearing. His new attorneys asked for a delay after taking over this case.

A Montgomery County judge on Tuesday agreed to delay Bill Cosby’s retrial until early 2018, acting on a request from the entertainer’s new defense team.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill didn’t set a date but told the lawyers that he’ll “loosely fix” the retrial for mid-March or early April, rather than begin on Nov. 6 as planned.

The order came at the end of a hearing in Norristown in which the judge allowed Cosby’s previous lawyers to withdraw from the case and met with his new defense team.

“They are entering their appearance today, and to ask someone to review this voluminous record … it just cannot be done,” O’Neill said as he granted the request to delay the retrial.

Led by Tom Mesereau, the new lawyers also said they would not ask the court to go through the same complicated jury selection process that in the spring led to 18 jurors being chosen in Pittsburgh, then bused and sequestered in Norristown for the two-week trial. Instead, jurors will come from Montgomery County.

“Our strong inclination is to try the case right here in this county,” Mesereau told the judge .

After the hearing, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said he was disappointed the retrial would be delayed.

“Hopefully they’ll get up to speed quickly in this case so we can bring the case to justice,” Steele said of the new defense lawyers. “It’s a case that deserves a verdict, and we intend to get there.”

The hearing was the first for Cosby since his sexual-assault trial ended with a hung jury in June and his former lawyers asked the judge this month to withdraw from the case.

Dressed in a dark suit, Cosby stayed quiet during the proceeding. A few fans shouted to him as he entered and exited the courthouse. Neither he nor the lawyers answered questions from reporters.

Camera icon MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby and spokesman Andrew Wyatt (left) walk toward Courtroom A in the Montgomery County Courthouse for a hearing.

The 80-year-old entertainer announced Monday that Mesereau, a California lawyer who defended Michael Jackson against child-molestation charges, would lead the defense team at his retrial. Philadelphia-based lawyer Sam Silver, who defended both U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and ex-Pennsylvania State University president Graham B. Spanier, will also join Cosby’s defense team, as will Kathleen Bliss, a lawyer from Las Vegas.

O’Neill on Tuesday granted the requests by Philadelphia defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle and Los Angeles-based lawyer Angela Agrusa to leave the case. Both were with Cosby for more than a year and through the June trial.

Agrusa and McMonagle arrived separately in court on Tuesday, and offered no reason to the judge for withdrawing from the case. They greeted Cosby, his spokesman, and lawyers on both sides with hugs and handshakes. O’Neill dismissed them as soon as the hearing began, and they left, again offering hugs and handshakes. McMonagle’s warm embrace of Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman, showed little sign of the tension that was apparent between the men during jury deliberations in June.

The judge publicly thanked the departing lawyers for their service and “extraordinary advocacy” on behalf of Cosby.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, at his home in Cheltenham in 2004.