Criminal Justice

Judge allows one prior accuser to testify in Cosby sexual assault trial

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Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby. Randy Miramontez /

A judge in Norristown, Pennsylvania, ruled on Friday that just one prior accuser may testify in Bill Cosby’s criminal trial for the alleged sexual assault of a former Temple University employee.

Prosecutors had sought testimony from 13 women about prior “bad acts” in a bid to establish a common scheme or pattern of misconduct by Cosby. But Judge Steven O’Neill allowed testimony from only one woman about a 1996 incident, report the Associated Press, the New York Times and

Cosby is charged with aggravated indecent assault for a 2004 incident with a Temple University employee whom he had been mentoring. Prosecutors allege that Cosby gave the woman pills and wine that left her unconscious at times and unable to consent.

O’Neill allowed testimony about a prior incident by a woman who says Cosby assaulted her in 1996 at a hotel in Los Angeles. She alleges that Cosby gave her wine and a pill to relax, and she recalls fading in and out of consciousness. At one point, she has alleged, she awoke to find that Cosby was naked and on top of her.

Defense lawyers had argued that many of the prior accusers said they had awakened and felt disoriented after meetings with Cosby but did not specifically remember sexual assaults, the article explains. Others were unclear about the date of the alleged incidents, and many had links to lawyer Gloria Allred and might be seeking civil suit payouts, the lawyers said.

Pennsylvania allows evidence of prior bad acts to establish a pattern of behavior, if the value of the evidence outweighs the potential prejudice. A wrong decision can lead to an overturned conviction—which happened in the case of a Roman Catholic official who was convicted of failing to stop sexual abuse by priests after jurors heard evidence of 21 other alleged cover-ups by the archdiocese.

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