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Live updates: Cosby appears in court on sexual assault charge

The 78-year-old entertainer made no comment as he entered the courthouse dressed in a dark brown suit and walking with a cane.

12:30 p.m.:

Repeatedly calling himself a "minister of justice" and a "representative of the sovereign" in his former role as Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce Castor testified Tuesday that his decision to not charge Bill Cosby in 2005 should permanently prevent the entertainer from ever being arrested or charged in that case.

"The criminal case was dead as a result of the decision I made as a representative of the sovereign," Castor testified, referring to the state of Pennsylvania.

Castor remained on the stand as a witness for Cosby's defense as the pretrial hearing for the sex assault case broke for an hour-long lunch Tuesday.

In his testimony Tuesday morning, Castor repeatedly declared that his 2005 decision not to prosecute Bill Cosby for the alleged sexual assault of former Temple University employee Andrea Constand "bound the Commonwealth" from ever arresting or charging Cosby at any point in the future for that alleged crime.

What has been described as a non-prosecution agreement between Cosby's attorneys and Castor was not an agreement or quid pro quo, Castor testified, but his "decision" that the state would never press charges — thus removing Cosby's ability to plead the Fifth Amendment in a civil lawsuit filed by Constand's attorneys.

Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele has previously said any agreement with Castor was not a legal grant of immunity, which he said could only be entered by a judge.

Steele's office filed criminal charges against Cosby in December. The complaint was primarily built on Cosby's admissions to certain acts made during his deposition in Constand's civil lawsuit.

Castor said without those admissions, he could not prove charges against Cosby beyond a reasonable doubt because he found Constand not to be a credible witness.

Her credibility was damaged by the fact that she waiteda full year after the alleged assaultbefore reporting the crime in January 2005, consulted civil lawyers before contacting police, had contacted Cosby multiple times after the incident and had illegally wiretapped phone calls with Cosby in what Castor said may have been a plot with her mother to get money from Cosby in exchange for her silence.

"I didn't want to tell the public that I thought Andrea Constand had compromised her credibility. I did not want her to be villified publicly. I thought that wasn't fair to her," Castor testified.

By deciding to not press criminal charges, Castor said, he set a "chain of events" into motion that would allow for Constand to seek justice in a civil lawsuit against Cosby.

"I had already decided that I wanted Mr. Cosby punished in civil court," Castor said. "I decided that it was better for justice."

Castor did not make his decision public because he did not want to taint prospective jurors by making his doubts about Constand's credibility public, he testified. However his intent was to "set up the dominos to fall in such a way that Mr. Cosby would be required to testify."

That lawsuit ended with a confidential out of court settlement.

"I was hopeful that I had made Ms. Constand a millionaire," Castor testified.

When the Constand case resurfaced in media reports after comic Hannibal Burress called Cosby a rapist during a stand-up act at the Trocadero in Philly, Castor began hearing rumors Cosby could be re-arrested, and on Sept. 23, 2015, he wrote a letter to then Montgomery County DA Risa Vetri Ferman advising her that his decision in 2005 meant Cosby could never be charged.

Castor's testimony will continue this afternoon, with prosecutors from Steele's office expected to cross-examine him.


10:50 a.m.:

Bill Cosby appeared at a suburban Philadelphia courthouse on Tuesday to fight sexual assault charges, which his lawyers say violate a decade-old agreement with a former district attorney not to prosecute the disgraced comedian.

Dressed in a dark brown suit, walking with a cane and flanked by attorneys and what appeared to be a security guard, the 78-year-old entertainer made no comment as he entered the courthouse to face charges of sexually assaulting a former women's basketball team manager at his alma mater, Temple University.

More than 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them but the case of Andre Constand is the only one to result in criminal charges. The wave of allegations has cost Cosby, once the beloved dad Heathcliff Huxtable in the long-running 1980s television hit "The Cosby Show," his status as one of the United States' most-admired entertainers.

Cosby has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Many of the cases date to the 1960s and 1970s, making them ineligible for criminal prosecution, although his alleged victims also have filed a series of civil lawsuits claiming Cosby defamed them by calling them liars.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's office charged Cosby with the 2004 sexual assault of Constand in late December, days before the statute of limitations was to expire. Constand, now 44, said Cosby plied her with drugs and alcohol before sexually assaulting her.

Cosby's lawyers have asked Common Pleas Court Judge Steven O'Neill to dismiss the case, citing a supposed agreement reached in 2005 with then-District Attorney Bruce Castor.

Under that deal, Cosby's lawyers say, Castor promised not to prosecute Cosby over Constand's allegations if he agreed to testify under oath in a civil lawsuit she filed against him.

A judge last year unsealed that testimony, in which Cosby acknowledged giving Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication, to Constand but portrayed the encounter as consensual. Prosecutors are generally free to use civil depositions as evidence in criminal cases.

Castor is prepared to testify that he told Cosby's lawyers he would not bring charges in exchange for the testimony, according to court papers.

But prosecutors have said in court filings that no documentation exists to corroborate any such agreement. Moreover, they argue, Castor did not have the authority to bar his office forever from pursuing criminal charges against Cosby.

Castor was the first witness to take the witness stand on Tuesday, answering basic questions about his background before one of Cosby's attorneys, Brian McMonagle, began to ask about Constand's credibility as a witness.

"Your honor, I've been doing this a long time, I'm wondering if you should do this in camera," Castor said, using a legal term to refer to testimony taken in private. The judge agreed to the request and the court went into a brief recess.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles County early this month decided not to charge Cosby over two alleged cases of sexual assault dating to 1965 and 2008.

-Reuters


 

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