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Jury in Cosby sexual assault retrial to hear final arguments

The defence could call two final witnesses to testify before the arguments begin, wrapping up testimony that began on 9 April.

Bill Cosby. Picture: AFP

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - Prosecutors and comedian Bill Cosby’s defence team were each set to deliver closing arguments in his sexual assault retrial on Monday, taking a final shot at convincing a jury he is innocent or guilty of charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a former friend.

The defence could call two final witnesses to testify before the arguments begin, wrapping up testimony that began on 9 April at Montgomery County Courthouse outside Philadelphia. Cosby, 80, a stand-up comedian who went on to star in a number of hit television series including The Cosby Show in the 1980s, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, 45, in December 2004.

He stood trial on the same charges last year when the deadlocked jury was unable to reach a verdict, leading prosecutors to try him again.

But this time the jury heard evidence that Judge Steven O’Neill barred from the first trial.

The prosecution called to the witness stand five other women who accused Cosby of similar sexual attacks, whereas only one such witness was allowed to testify in the first trial, to show that the 2004 incident fit a pattern of criminal behaviour.

During the defence case, the panel heard testimony from a friend of Constand who said she once talked about extracting money from celebrities by making false accusations of abuse. In the first trial, the judge barred that witness from taking the stand.

About 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, sometimes after drugging them, going back decades. All the accusations, apart from Constand’s, were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

A once-beloved figure known as America’s Dad for playing Dr Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying any sexual contact he has had was consensual.

If convicted of all three counts, he would likely face at most 10 years in prison as a first offender under state sentencing guidelines, although Pennsylvania law allows for a maximum penalty of three consecutive 10-year sentences, a prosecution spokeswoman said.

Constand, a former administrator of the women’s basketball team at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, filed a civil lawsuit after Pennsylvania prosecutors in 2005 initially declined to charge Cosby for the alleged assault. Cosby agreed to pay her $3.38 million to settle.

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