Saturday 31 March 2018

US judge refuses to step down in Bill Cosby sex case

The judge presiding over Bill Cosby’s retrial for alleged molestation on Friday quashed defense demands that he step down for purported bias because his wife works with sexual assault victims.

Judge Steven O’Neill, in Pennsylvania, denied the request in a written order after reportedly telling a pre-trial hearing Thursday that there was no evidence of bias and his wife was an “independent woman.”

The bid had been another attempt from Cosby’s defense team, headed by Tom Mesereau, to substantially delay the retrial for alleged sexual assault.

Mesereau is the celebrity Los Angeles lawyer who got Michael Jackson acquitted of child molestation in 2005.

The defense had claimed “a clear appearance of partiality” because Deborah O’Neill coordinates a sexual trauma team at the University of Pennsylvania, donated to an activist group that had targeted Cosby, and wrote a dissertation on acquaintance rape.

Jury selection is now due to begin in Norristown on Monday with opening statements expected to begin April 9 at the earliest. O’Neill has already presided over the case for two years.

He was forced to declare a mistrial last June when the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict against the comedy legend on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

The 2017 trial irrevocably damaged the once-towering icon of US popular culture, loved by millions as “America’s Dad” and best known for his seminal role as a father and obstetrician on hit 1984-92 TV series “The Cosby Show.”

The 80-year-old, once a pioneering African-American entertainer, is accused of drugging and molesting a former university basketball official at his Philadelphia home in 2004. He says their relations were consensual.

Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning actor of being a serial sexual predator, but most of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute, putting him in the dock in connection with only one of the alleged victims.

Now frail and isolated, he risks spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

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