NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Comedian Bill Cosby returned to a Pennsylvania court on Monday for the start of his retrial on charges of sexually assaulting a onetime friend who had thought of him as a mentor, almost a year after a jury deadlocked in the case.
Cosby’s defense team and prosecutors were set to make opening arguments on the first day of what is expected to be a one-month trial in Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. A seven-man, five-woman jury was selected last week.
In June, the first jury failed to come to a unanimous verdict on charges that Cosby drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial.
Large crowds of observers gathered outside the court to watch Cosby’s arrival on Monday. A topless woman with phrases including “Women’s Lives Matter” written on her torso burst through a security line and shouted as Cosby arrived before she was taken into custody.
The retrial of the man once known as “America’s Dad” will unfold against the backdrop of the national #MeToo movement. A parade of women have ended years of silence to tell their stories of sexual misconduct and assault by powerful men in Hollywood, politics and business.
Cosby, 80, best known as the benign patriarch on television’s “The Cosby Show,” is accused of attacking Constand, now 44, a former administrator at Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Constand is one of more than 50 women who have accused him of sexual assaults, some dating back decades.
The defense team, headed by Tom Mesereau, who successfully defended singer Michael Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial, has said that Cosby denies all allegations and any sexual encounters were consensual.
The court is likely to hear much of the same evidence as in the first trial, where Constand testified that Cosby gave her pills that rendered her powerless to stop him.
Each side comes to the second trial with fresh ammunition.
O’Neill said he will allow prosecutors to call as witnesses five other women who accuse Cosby of sexual assault to show he engaged in a pattern of behavior. Last time he allowed one.
O’Neill also granted a defense request to allow testimony from a woman who claims Constand mused about falsely accusing a famous man to get money.
Additional reporting by Jessica Kourkounis, Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis
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