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State's Highest Court Considers Cosby Case

Bill Cosby wants his 2018 sexual assault conviction overturned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2020 12:03 AM CST

(Newser) – Pennsylvania's highest court questioned Tuesday whether Bill Cosby's alleged history of intoxicating and sexually assaulting young women amounted to a signature crime pattern, given studies that show as many as half of all sexual assaults involve drugs or alcohol. Cosby, 83, hopes to overturn his 2018 sex assault conviction because the judge let prosecutors call five other accusers who said Cosby assaulted them the same way he did his victim, Andrea Constand, the AP reports. The defense said their testimony prejudiced the jury against the actor and should not have been allowed. “That conduct you describe—the steps, the young women—there’s literature that says that’s common to 50% of these assaults—thousands of assaults—nationwide,” Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor asked a prosecutor during oral arguments in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. “So how can that be a common scheme?”

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The prosecutor, in response, offered more precise details about the relationships, saying Cosby used his fame and fortune to mentor the women and then took advantage of it. And he sometimes befriended their mothers or families. “There was a built-in level of trust because of his status in the entertainment industry and because he held himself out as a public moralist,” said Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, of suburban Philadelphia's Montgomery County. “The signature was isolating and intoxicating young women for the purpose of sexually assaulting them." Courts have long wrestled with decisions about when other accusers should be allowed to testify in criminal cases. It's generally not allowed, but state law permits a few exceptions, including to show a signature crime pattern. (More on the ins and outs of the issue here.)

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