PHILADELPHIA — Jurors at Bill Cosby’s sex assault trial can hear his explosive deposition testimony about quaaludes but can’t hear about the lawsuit he settled afterward with the accuser, a judge ruled Friday.
Cosby, 79, is accused of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He calls the encounter consensual.
In the decade-old deposition, Cosby said he got seven prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s, intending not to take them himself but to give them to women he was pursuing for sex. The powerful sedatives were banned in 1983, and Cosby said he no longer had them when he met Constand 20 years later.
Defence lawyers therefore pushed to exclude his testimony about quaaludes from the trial. But Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill on Friday said the testimony was fair game.
During the deposition, Constand’s lawyer asked: “When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?”
“Yes,” Cosby answered.
“Did you ever give any of these young women the quaaludes without their knowledge?” lawyer Dolores Troiani continued.
Cosby’s lawyers objected, and the question went unanswered.
Cosby goes on trial June 5 in suburban Philadelphia, with jury selection set to start May 22. The jury will be sequestered for the estimated two-week trial.
O’Neill on Friday also denied prosecutors’ bid to include Cosby’s comedic riffs about Spanish fly, which they argued showed his familiarity with date-rape drugs. The defence called the passage, from his 1991 book “Childhood,” nothing more than a fanciful story about adolescent boys trying to pursue girls.
“They’re never in the mood for us,” Cosby wrote. “They need chemicals.”
Spanish fly, made from a green beetle of the same name, has been sold as an aphrodisiac.
Cosby, once known as America’s Dad for his beloved portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his top-ranked “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s and ’90s, is charged with felony sexual assault.
O’Neill excluded any references to Constand’s sexual battery and defamation lawsuit or the settlement that followed after Cosby gave four days of deposition testimony in 2005 and 2006. The jury may simply be told the testimony came in a prior legal matter. That means defence lawyers can’t suggest through cross-examination that Constand made the accusations to get money from Cosby.
“I’m surprised that the defence won’t be allowed to at least raise for the jury the fact that a civil suit was pursued. I understand how come (references to) the settlement may be too much, but I think that it is a fair area of inquiry for the defence … to show possible motive,” said veteran criminal lawyer William J. Brennan, who is not involved in the case. Accusers in the Philadelphia church-abuse case, in which he took part, were asked about lawsuits they filed against the Roman Catholic archdiocese.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case, which prosecutors reopened in 2015 after key parts of the deposition were unsealed.
The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they give permission, which Constand has done.