NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Opening addresses in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby were delayed on Monday while the judge held a closed-door hearing focusing on whether one of 12 jurors selected last week had made a statement expressing his belief that the entertainer is guilty.
When he arrived at the courthouse this morning, Cosby got an unusual greeting: a topless female demonstrator shouting “women’s lives matter” jumped over a barricade to try to reach the comedian. Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, who accompanied the entertainer to court, said he took it in stride. “He had no reaction. He can’t see,” Wyatt said of Cosby, who is visually impaired.
The woman, identified as Nicolle Rochelle, was tackled to the ground by police and charged with disorderly conduct, the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement just after noon. Rochelle appeared on a few episodes of “The Cosby Show.”
The hearing was still ongoing, and there was no public word by early afternoon about when the trial would begin. Judge Steven T. O’Neill said he was conducting the session in private to “protect the essence of this proceeding” and “to make sure we can continue with a fair and impartial trial.”
In a court filing late Friday, defense lawyers asked the judge to replace the juror, who according to the defense motion, made it clear to other prospective jurors that he has “a fixed opinion about Mr. Cosby’s guilt in this case.”
The defense team, led by Los Angeles lawyer Tom Mesereau, also asked for other jurors to be questioned about what they heard. The juror — identified only as Juror 11 — could be replaced by one of the six alternates also selected last week.
Cosby’s first trial ended last June when a jury deadlocked on the charges. He is now facing a new jury made up of residents of Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia.
Cosby, now 80, is accused of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, then operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where Cosby was a proud alum. He has pleaded not guilty and contends their sexual contact was consensual.
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, all focusing on what Constand said happened to her after he invited her to his home in Montgomery County in early 2004.
Constand is just one of the more than 50 women who have said they were molested by the once-beloved entertainer over four decades.
This time around, Cosby has a new defense team that is expected to vigorously attack Constand’s credibility. Prosecutors, meanwhile, are also allowed to call to the witness stand five other women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them — four more than were permitted to testify during the first trial.
But perhaps the biggest change of all is the cultural atmosphere created by the growing list of rich, powerful, and famous men who have been accused in the last six months of sexual harassment or misconduct — a widening societal awareness of sexual misconduct known as the #MeToo movement.