A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday set the retrial of comic legend Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges to begin Nov. 6 in suburban Philadelphia.
The decision was announced in a one-page court order by Stephen T. O’Neill, the Montgomery County, Pa., judge who declared a mistrial on June 17 when a seven-man, five-woman jury deadlocked on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Cosby after 52 hours of deliberations.
Cosby, who turns 80 next week, is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, an operations manager for the Temple University basketball, in 2004 at his suburban Philadelphia estate. Constand, who was 30 at the time of the alleged assault, testified at the original trial, telling jurors that Cosby gave her pills that left her body “frozen” and then sexually assaulted her.
Cosby, like many criminal defendants, did not testify at the trial. But jurors heard testimony about statements Cosby gave to police in which he claimed that he gave Constand the allergy medication Benadryl, which can cause drowsiness, then had consensual sexual contact with her.
There has been much speculation about whether O’Neill would continue to oversee the case. At this point, all indications are that he will. There was no mention of another trial judge in O’Neill’s order Thursday. The retrial is scheduled to be held in the same location, Courtroom A at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pa., where the original trial was held.
O’Neill was thrust into a brighter spotlight in the moments after declaring a mistrial when Cosby’s wife, Camille Cosby, issued a blistering statement accusing him of being “arrogant” and “collaborating” with the district attorney. The statement puzzled many observers because it had been O’Neill who issued a key pretrial ruling blocking prosecutors from calling all but one of the 13 previous Cosby accusers they’d sought as witnesses to argue that the comedian had engaged in a pattern of sexual misdeeds over many years. However, O’Neill had also pushed jurors to continue deliberating for hours after they first announced they were deadlocked.
The jury that couldn’t reach a verdict last month was selected in Allegheny County, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, because of defense concerns about pretrial publicity in Montgomery County, where the Cosby case became an issue in the 2015 election campaign of Kevin Steele, the district attorney who prosecuted Cosby. The jury was then bused 300 miles across Pennsylvania and sequestered during the trial. But it seemed unlikely that court officials would return to Pittsburgh for jury selection: the city is holding a mayoral election the day after the retrial is scheduled to begin.
That leaves open the question of where jury selection would take place. Some legal experts have suggested the jury could be culled from the Harrisburg or Scranton areas. Another possibility, according to legal experts, would be to dispense with the idea of selecting a jury from another county since there has been saturation coverage of the case across the state and simply take the jurors from Montgomery County.