By Joseph Ax
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - More than a dozen women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault should be allowed to testify at his trial about the "serial nature" of his predatory behavior, a Pennsylvania prosecutor argued in court on Wednesday.
Cosby, 79, who once enjoyed immense popularity as a family-friendly entertainer, is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at his alma mater, Temple University, in Pennsylvania in 2004.
While Constand's allegation is the only one to lead to criminal charges, Cosby faces assault allegations going back decades from about 60 women. Cosby has denied any wrongdoing.
The judge in the Constand case listened to heated arguments at the end of a two-day hearing to determine the scope of evidence that prosecutors can introduce at Cosby's criminal trial next year.
Judge Steven O'Neill is not expected to rule on whether to allow 13 other accusers to testify about unrelated incidents until another two-day hearing in December. The judge will likely decide two other issues, however, in the coming weeks.
Cosby's lawyers have asked O'Neill to dismiss the case because of the 11-year delay between the incident and his arrest in 2015. They have argued that because Cosby is now legally blind, he is unable to participate fully in his defense.
Cosby is also seeking to bar prosecutors from using sworn testimony he gave during Constand's civil case in 2005, when he described giving women Quaaludes before engaging in sexual acts.
But it was the prospect of the prosecution calling other women as witnesses that prompted the most combative exchange.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the accusers would offer proof of "the serial nature of the defendant's decades-long patterns of sexual assault," including his use of sedatives and his method of establishing himself as a trusted mentor.
Steele also accused defense lawyers of including several accusers' names in a court filing as a way of "intimidating" them.
An angry Brian McMonagle, Cosby's lead lawyer, responded in a rising voice, "They want to produce witnesses to attack a man's liberty on an issue they're not involved in, and you want to point fingers and say we don't have the right to identify them?"
The judge said on Wednesday that the trial could take place sooner than the June date he had previously set aside.
After the hearing, Cosby smiled and nodded when a reporter asked how he was feeling. He walked slowly holding a cane and with the help of an aide.