NORRISTOWN >> A jury will not learn about entertainer Bill Cosby’s October 2006 civil settlement with Andrea Constand, the woman who accused him of the sexual assault for which he will stand trial in June, a judge has ruled.
“Neither party shall make any reference to any civil suit or the settlement thereof,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill wrote in a court order issued on Friday.
Cosby, 79, through his lawyers, sought to exclude all testimony or references regarding the settlement agreement or the negotiation of the settlement agreement.
“Any marginal probative value of the settlement agreement might have it clearly outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice that will result from the risk that a jury will view the settlement agreement as a confession of liability and guilt,” defense lawyers Brian J. McMonagle and Angela C. Agrusa wrote in court papers last month.
McMonagle and Agrusa argued there was a “risk that its admission would only confuse the jury and be unfairly prejudicial.”
Prosecutors had argued that if Cosby was permitted to mention to a jury that the entertainer was sued by Andrea Constand then evidence of the 2006 civil settlement also should be admissible at the upcoming criminal trial. Deputy District Attorney Robert M. Falin and co-prosecutor Kristen M. Feden claimed such evidence would be “critical to rebut any charge or claim of Ms. Constand’s bias.”
“Should the court permit evidence of the civil lawsuit, it should permit the fact of settlement and the circumstances leading up to it as evidence of defendant’s consciousness of guilt,” Falin and Feden, who are assisting District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, wrote in court papers last month.
Prosecutors said if Judge O’Neill ruled evidence of the civil suit is excluded from the criminal trial, then they would withdraw their request to admit evidence of settlement and the circumstances surrounding it.
Cosby faces a June 5 trial on charges of aggravated indecent assault in connection with his alleged contact with Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, after plying her with blue pills and wine at his Cheltenham home sometime between mid-January and mid-February 2004.
On March 8, 2005, Constand filed a civil suit against Cosby in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, alleging, among other things, “claims for battery, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress” based upon the same alleged sexual encounter that became the subject of the criminal charges filed against Cosby in December 2015, according to court documents.
The civil suit was filed three weeks after former county District Attorney Bruce L Castor Jr. issued a Feb. 17, 2005, press release confirming his office had declined to file criminal charges against Cosby.
The civil suit was subsequently resolved in October 2006 for an undisclosed amount, according to court papers. The settlement agreement also resolved a separate action brought by Constand against publishers of The National Enquirer and in November 2006, as part of the settlement, Constand dismissed both actions, defense lawyers said.
Cosby was deposed in connection with the lawsuit over four days in September 2005 and March 2006, court documents indicate.
Steele reopened the criminal investigation in July 2015 after portions of Cosby’s deposition connected to the civil suit were unsealed by a federal judge and alleged damaging testimony by him was exposed.
In that deposition, Cosby, according to court documents, admitted that in the past he obtained Quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Prosecutors contend Cosby also admitted for the first time to developing a romantic interest in Constand when he saw her at a Temple basketball game and to having sexual contact with Constand.
Prosecutors subsequently filed criminal charges against Cosby on Dec. 30, 2015, before the 12-year statute of limitations to file charges expired.
In a separate ruling issued on Friday, Judge O’Neill said prosecutors can present Cosby’s previous deposition admissions regarding his use of Quaaludes to the jury from Allegheny County that will weigh Cosby’s fate this summer.
Cosby has suggested the contact he had with Constand was consensual.
Previously, McMonagle unsuccessfully had argued that Cosby relied on a so-called 2005 “non-prosecution promise” provided by Castor when he agreed to testify in the civil suit brought by Constand and that any evidence derived from his deposition could not be used against him.
But prosecutors argued there was no previous, valid non-prosecution promise and that Castor did not promise Cosby that he would never be prosecuted.
If convicted of the charges at trial, William Henry Cosby Jr., as his name appears on charging documents, faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison. He remains free on 10 percent of $1 million bail, pending trial.
The newspaper does not normally identify victims of sex crimes without their consent but is using Constand’s name because she has identified herself publicly.