Montgomery County judge: Jury selection to begin May 22 for Bill Cosby trial

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown for his preliminary hearing on sexual assault May 24, 2016.

NORRISTOWN >> Jury selection will begin May 22 in Pittsburgh for entertainer Bill Cosby’s upcoming trial on charges he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004.

Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill signed an order on Tuesday finalizing the day that the selection of the jury of 12 and six alternate jurors will begin at the Allegheny County Courthouse. On that day, Cosby and his security entourage, county prosecutors, defense lawyers, O’Neill and likely a contingent of the judge’s staff will travel to Pittsburgh to select the panel, a process that could take up to a week.

Once the jurors are selected they will be transported back to Montgomery County for the June 5 trial and sequestered in an area hotel for the duration of the trial at the county’s expense. Lawyers previously predicted that the trial can be completed in two weeks.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected Allegheny County for the jury selection process, responding to O’Neill’s Feb. 27 request that jurors from another county be chosen for the trial.

During a hearing in February, defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle and co-defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusa argued for moving Cosby’s trial to another county, claiming that closer to home prospective jurors have been subjected to pervasive negative media coverage that “vilified an American icon” making it impossible to select a fair jury in Montgomery County. McMonagle described the media coverage as “a smear campaign across the globe.”

While he opposed moving the entire trial to another county, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele did not oppose selecting jurors from another county and bringing them back to Norristown for the trial. Steele is being assisted at trial by co-prosecutors M. Stewart Ryan and Kristen Feden.

While O’Neill approved a change of venire – selecting jurors from another county - he denied the more drastic request by Cosby’s lawyers for a change of venue – moving the trial to another county.

William Henry Cosby Jr., 79, as his name appears on charging documents, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with allegations he had inappropriate sexual contact with Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, at his Cheltenham home after plying her with blue pills and wine sometime between mid-January and mid-February 2004.

The charges were lodged against Cosby on Dec. 30, 2015, before the 12-year statute of limitations to file charges expired.

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.

Cosby currently remains free on 10 percent of $1 million bail. If convicted of the charges at trial, the former sitcom star faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison.

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