Bill Cosby Trial: Lawyers Urge Dismissal of Sexual Assault Case

Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after a preliminary hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania on May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Matt Rourke/Pool/File Photo

Lawyers for Bill Cosby on Thursday urged a Pennsylvania judge to throw out the sexual assault case against him, the latest effort from the 78-year-old comedian to escape charges that he molested a woman at his house in 2004.

Defense lawyer Christopher Tayback told Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill that the alleged victim, Andrea Constand, should be required to testify and answer questions before the case proceeds to trial. But prosecutors said they were allowed at the preliminary stage to introduce as evidence Constand's 2005 statement to police, rather than subjecting her to cross-examination. Once one of the most beloved U.S. entertainers thanks to his family-friendly persona, Cosby is facing accusations of sexual assault from dozens of women stretching back decades.

The Pennsylvania case is the only criminal prosecution against him, as most of the other allegations involve incidents that are too old to produce charges. Cosby, who entered the courtroom using a cane and holding the arm of a helper for support, has denied assaulting anyone and has portrayed the encounter with Constand as consensual. In part, the hearing offered a preview of the defense trial strategy, which will likely focus on Constand and her credibility as a witness.

Thursday's proceeding stemmed from a preliminary hearing in May to determine whether Cosby should be held over for trial. At that hearing, prosecutors chose not to call Constand as a witness. Instead, two police detectives who took her statement in 2005 testified as to what she told them at the time.

Tayback said prosecutors were using "hearsay evidence" improperly, robbing Cosby of his constitutional right to confront his accuser while relying on an 11-year-old statement plagued with inconsistencies. "It's a statement that on its face begs more questions than it answers," he said. Cosby's lawyers said the case should be dismissed or, in the alternative, Constand should be ordered to testify at a new preliminary hearing.

But prosecutors said current case law allows the use of hearsay at preliminary hearings, even though the issue is pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. District Attorney Kevin Steele told O'Neill his office did not want to "re-traumatize victims" by requiring them to testify about their assaults multiple times. "The defendant here can face his accuser at the subsequent trial," another prosecutor, Bob Falin, said.

The hearing was still ongoing as of 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT).

Constand, a former basketball coach at Cosby's alma mater Temple University, has accused him of drugging her at his home near Philadelphia in 2004 and then assaulting her on a couch. Cosby has admitted giving her the allergy medication Benadryl but has maintained they engaged in consensual acts.