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Prosecutors want to call 19 other accusers at Cosby retrial

In this Aug. 22, 2017, photo, Bill Cosby departs after a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
In this Aug. 22, 2017, photo, Bill Cosby departs after a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
By Kristen De Groot Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – Prosecutors preparing for Bill Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges told a judge Thursday that they want to call 19 other accusers to try to show a pattern of “prior bad acts” over five decades.

The comedian’s first trial ended with a hung jury in June. In that proceeding, prosecutors asked to call 13 other accusers, but the judge allowed only one to testify, a woman who said she was attacked by Cosby at a Los Angeles hotel in 1996.

In Thursday’s filing, prosecutors asked the court to reconsider its earlier order, saying the 19 women’s accusations show that Cosby’s prior bad acts are sufficiently “distinctive and so nearly identical as to become the signature of the same perpetrator.”

Kathleen Bliss, one of Cosby’s lawyers, said she couldn’t comment on the filing.

Pennsylvania law allows testimony about “prior bad acts” if they fit a nearly identical crime pattern.

Prosecutors say that’s the case for the TV star once dubbed “America’s Dad” for his role as Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” They say Cosby routinely used his fame and power to befriend impressionable young women, knocked them out with drugs or alcohol and then sexually assaulted them.

Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Cosby has said the encounter was consensual.

The new potential witnesses include model Janice Dickinson, who claims Cosby drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe, California in 1982; a woman who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her after she opened for him at a Denver club in 1980; and a talent agency secretary who says Cosby spiked her drinks and tried to force her to give him oral sex in 1965.

In the run-up to his first trial, Cosby’s lawyers objected to any testimony about “prior bad acts,” saying that in some cases the sex was consensual, while others involved models and actresses falsely accusing Cosby to gain money or attention.

His attorneys also argued that some of the allegations were so vague – with some of the women unsure of when the alleged encounters even took place – that it would be impossible for Cosby to defend himself.

He has a new legal team for the retrial, set for April 2 in suburban Philadelphia.

Prosecutors say the 19 women are among more than 50 they interviewed claiming Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them.

“Each of these women has come forward with harrowing accounts of sexual assault by the defendant, strikingly similar to the tactics he employed with Ms. Constand,” the motion reads.

The testimony of the 19 others – should Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill allow some or all of it – could bolster the case that turns on the question of consent. Cosby, in a decade-old deposition, acknowledged some of the encounters but said they were consensual.

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they are sexual assault victims, unless they agree to be identified. Constand and Dickinson have consented.

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