LOS ANGELES — Local attorneys representing women who have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and assaulting them hailed the May 24 ruling by a Pennsylvania judge that the comedian must stand trial for allegedly assaulting a woman 12 years ago.
Cosby, 78, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of aggravated indecent assault for the alleged attack on Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, in January 2004.
Prosecutors allege Cosby plied Constand with drugs and wine, but Cosby has denied any wrongdoing and said the encounter was consensual.
The decision ordering Cosby to stand trial was no surprise to Carl Douglas, an attorney for 36 years who worked with Johnnie Cochran on the O.J. Simpson case.
But it will be much harder to convict Cosby in a regular trial, Douglas said.
“Under the law, a trial is warranted if there is a suspicion of wrongdoing,” he said, adding comments by a detective who interviewed the defendant and her comments were enough to cause suspicion.
“But it is harder to find a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on just suspicion,” Douglas said.
He said Cosby’s fame could work for him or against him in the trial.
“There is always more interest in a case where the person is well known. Often the past reputation of a suspect is a deciding factor.”
He noted that Cosby’s reputation as America’s dad has been diminished, but still may stand with some jurors.
“On the other hand, Mike Tyson’s past reputation would go against him in a case,” said Douglas referring to the boxer.
He added: “Cosby’s reputation might make it harder to find a juror who has not made up his mind.”
As a defense attorney, Douglas speculated that lawyers for Cosby would focus on the accuser’s conduct.
The woman did not report the incident immediately and was reported to have had personal contact with Cosby after the incident, allegedly calling him for tickets to his television show and asking advice.
Gloria Allred, who represents Constand, called the judge’s ruling “fair” and said she was looking forward to the trial.
She took issue with the argument of Cosby’s defense team that Constand “didn’t say ‘no.’”
“The argument of the prosecution is that if a victim is incapacitated for any reason, in this case perhaps the pills that Mr. Cosby admitted in his police report that he gave to Ms. Constand, and her ingestion of some wine at the same time and the fact she had not had food, rendered her — according to Ms. Constand — in a state where she was going in and out of consciousness,” Allred told reporters in Pennsylvania.
“She was aware that some things were happening, for example, her legs were paralyzed, she could also feel — according to her statement — that Mr. Cosby was touching her breasts … but that she could not say no.”
In addition to Constand, Allred represents nearly three dozen women who have accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting them, in some cases dating back decades. Among her clients is Judy Huth, who claims the comedian sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974 when she was 15 years old. Huth’s lawsuit is pending before a judge in Santa Monica.
Attorney Lisa Bloom — who is Allred’s daughter — represents former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who is suing Cosby for defamation. Dickinson claims she has been re-victimized and her reputation has suffered because of denials by his then-lawyer, Martin Singer, of her allegations that the comedian drugged and raped her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room more than 30 years ago.
“We are delighted by the decision in Pennsylvania today requiring Bill Cosby to stand trial for felony indecent assault,” Bloom said. “Women all over the country have fought against great odds to bring Mr. Cosby to trial, as we have. Mr. Cosby is entitled to a fair trial and so are the more than 50 women who have now accused him of sexual misconduct.”
Staff writer Arnold Adler contributed to this story.