Cosby's trial cost Montgomery County more than $219K

Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial cost Montgomery County more than $219,000, according to a partial accounting released Thursday of the most closely watched legal spectacle the suburban county has ever hosted.

County officials said they had not yet calculated how the expenses for the trial, which ended last month after jurors were unable to reach a verdict, would affect its annual budget. But the price tag on prosecuting the now-80-year-old entertainer – including $129,000 for overtime costs and $74,000 to accommodate the sequestered jury – is likely only to grow as Cosby returns to Norristown for a retrial this fall.

In a statement that appeared to anticipate criticism of that bill, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele responded within minutes to the calculations released by county administrators.

“We have said all along that you can’t put a price on justice,” he said. “We are always budget-conscious, but we are also cognizant that our decisions must be based upon the facts and the evidence. We also must follow the trail wherever it leads us and we must overcome hurdles to obtaining justice.”

Still, the total $219,000 tab – which worked out to just shy of 75 cents for each of the county’s 309,000 households — is likely a pittance compared to the sum Cosby is said to have paid his lawyers and publicity team to defend against the only criminal charges to emerge from the allegations of dozens of women who have said they were drugged and assaulted by the celebrity once known as “America’s Dad.”

The case drew hundreds of reporters, demonstrators, and gawkers from across the country to Norristown and required a coterie of county law enforcement personnel to keep the peace when the trial reached its inconclusive end after five days and 52 hours of jury deliberations.

Nearly half of the county’s bill for the trial went toward paying sheriff’s deputies $98,000 in overtime for security work during the two-week trial and jury-selection process in Allegheny County, a locale selected by state court administrators after Cosby’s lawyers argued that Montgomery County had been too tainted by publicity surrounding the case to yield a panel of impartial jurors.

Once the jury was selected, the cost of busing its 12 members and six alternates across the state and sequestering them for the length of the proceedings also proved substantial.

The county paid $50,000 to reserve an entire floor at a Plymouth Meeting hotel where jurors were housed and spent $14,000 to feed them.

Not included in the ledger released Thursday were the full expenses incurred by the District Attorney’s Office, such as housing and travel costs for government witnesses, which are covered by a separate operations budget. Some, like the case’s central accuser Andrea Constand and members of her family, had to be flown in from Ontario.

Staffers in the Prosecutor’s Office declined to outline their expenses tied to the case Thursday.

It was not clear whether county officials might seek to cut some costs during Cosby’s second trial based on their experience of the first.

For instance, lawyers on each side could push to draw the next jury from another county closer to home or pull the panel from within Montgomery County’s borders.

County officials said that while their annual budget anticipated some funding for trials and overtime, they had not yet determined whether the cost of Cosby’s trial pushed past the money that had already been allotted.

Val Arkoosh, chairwoman of the county’s Board of Commissioners, praised the planning and coordination various county departments put into preparing for the proceedings.

“I want to extend my deepest gratitude for the hard work and professionalism that our county employees showed throughout the trial,” she said.

Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault tied to allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted Constand, a former operations manager for Temple University’s women’s basketball team, in 2004 at his Cheltenham residence.

He has denied the charges and maintained he never assaulted anyone.

Also Thursday, a self-identified Cosby fan admitted in a contempt of court hearing to recording and later posting to YouTube portions of the trial – a violation of state laws banning transmission from county courtrooms.

Anitra Burrows, 37, of Collegeville, apologized and said she viewed the trial as her one shot to create a viral video in the hearing before Montgomery County President Judge Thomas DelRicci.

The judge banned her from all future proceedings in the case and ordered her to perform 50 hours of community service.