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No End in Sight For Bill Cosby’s Legal Woes

Variety logo Variety 6/17/2017 Gene Maddaus
© Provided by Variety

Even as his team declared victory after today’s hung jury, comedian Bill Cosby still faces a mountain of legal trouble in the coming years.

First and most important, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele has vowed to retry Cosby on the criminal charge that he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand. Under Pennsylvania’s speedy trial law, the new trial should be set within 365 days, and Steele has promised to move as fast as possible.

Both sides will have a chance to adjust their strategies for the next trial. They may also be able to query jurors about the deliberations in hopes of learning something that may make their arguments more convincing. The prosecution could also seek to appeal Judge Steven O’Neill’s ruling to exclude testimony from a dozen women who claim Cosby sexually assaulted them.

“If the court allows more accusers next time to testify, it might make a difference,” said attorney Gloria Allred outside court.

Cosby remains free on bail. But in the meantime, he is also facing ten civil suits, many of them for defamation. Those cases continue to go forward, though they could be delayed as Cosby may not be required to give depositions in several of them until after the retrial.

In Massachusetts, Cosby is facing a federal defamation suit from seven accusers. Both sides continue to file motions and take discovery, but the court has issued a ruling preventing the plaintiffs’ attorneys from taking discovery from Cosby until the conclusion of the criminal trial. With the criminal case now set for a retrial, it appears that the Massachusetts civil case will be significantly prolonged. An attorney for one of the plaintiffs in the case declined to comment Saturday.

“If the parties previously agreed to stay the civil litigation pending the criminal trial, it is likely that they will continue that stipulation for a retrial,” said Priya Sopori, a partner at Greenberg Glusker. “Many of the civil cases will undoubtedly face issues regarding the statute of limitations, which are inevitably longer for criminal activity than for civil liability; but stipulations to stay often include an agreement to toll (a legal term for hitting the pause button) the statute of limitations for the duration of the stay.”

Janice Dickinson, the former fashion model and actress, has also filed a defamation suit against Cosby in California. She alleges that Cosby drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982. That case is not affected by the delay in the criminal proceeding.

“Our case goes on independently,” Dickinson’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, told Variety on Saturday.

Allred is also representing accuser Judy Huth, who has a court date later this month in Santa Monica. Huth alleges that Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15. Allred has said that a second deposition of Cosby was awaiting the conclusion of the criminal trial, so that case, too, may be delayed.

Andrea Constand settled her lawsuit against Cosby a decade ago, so the specific facts of her case are not in play in the civil arena.

As for criminal charges, Bloom said a retrial typically favors the prosecution because in a second trial, attorneys for the accusers have already seen the legal strategy by the defense. “They can analyze everything in light of what they know now and probably put on a stronger case,” Bloom said.

Equally, though, the defense has now seen Constand’s testimony and can adjust its approach on cross-examination.

“Now they have a full record that their investigators can go out and use to obtain impeachment material,” said Steven Fairlie, a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia who has been tracking the case. “Then the defense attorneys can plan out a more effective cross-examination.”

Bloom argued that the outcome of the trial does not represent a win for Cosby, as his team is claiming. “This is not a victory for Bill Cosby today. It’s not an acquittal. It’s a mistrial. This is just a reset.”

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