When Bill Cosby went to trial last June for allegedly drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, it was in many ways a test of how much the judicial system had caught up with rapidly changing public opinions about sexual assault in America. When a verdict couldn't be reached, it was proof that a gulf still exists between average jurors and the media world that disgraced the legendary comedian.
Now, Cosby will face a retrial in Pennsylvania on April 2, and his prosecutors reportedly want to make a major change to their strategy the second go-around. According to the New York Times, the Montgomery County district attorney's office has asked that 19 accusers—of the roughly 50 who have publicly accused Cosby of assault—join Constand in testifying against the comedian. Judge Steven T. O'Neill, who presided over the first trial, only let one additional accuser testify last year.
When prosecutors asked for a second trial, experts speculated that it might be a bit of a fool's errand. The thinking was that if they changed their strategy too significantly, it would be obvious grounds for an appeal later on. But the national conversation has about consent has progressed immensely since even last summer, with accusations against people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey illustrating to the general public that powerful men sometimes have a bevy of victims who don't come forward for years. Perhaps in light of that, the government's new goal is to establish that the comedian allegedly exhibited a predatory pattern of behavior toward women he often had a mentor relationship with.
"This evidence is relevant to establish that an individual who, over the course of decades, intentionally intoxicated women in a signature fashion and then sexually assaulted them while they were incapacitated, could not have been mistaken about whether or not Ms. Constand was conscious enough to consent to the sexual contact," the district attorney’s office argued in a court filing.
Should Judge O'Neill allow all 20 women to testify against Cosby, he still would only face punishment for allegedly assaulting Constand. According to the Times, his ruling is expected in the next few weeks.
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