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April 09, 2018

Bill Cosby's sex-assault trial begins Monday in a #MeToo landscape

Monday marks the beginning of Bill Cosby’s retrial as the comedian faces three counts of aggravated assault from accuser Andrea Constand, with claims that date back to 2004. If found guilty, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison for each charge.

UPDATE: The trial has been delayed Monday as the judge questions one juror who the defense claims told another juror about Bill Cosby, "I just think he's guilty," reported.

The juror in question, No. 11, is reported to be a white man in his 20s or 30s who said during the jury selection process that he had no opinion about the case. An affidavit states that juror No. 11 shared his opinion about Cosby's guilt with another juror while waiting to be questioned, prompting Cosby's attorneys to call for his removal.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Steven O'Neill said he would meet with the juror in a private conference; it's unclear how long the opening statements will be delayed.

Though the original trial in Montgomery County Court, which ended last June in a mistrial, saw a gridlocked jury, the rise of the #MeToo movement could have a profound influence over the trial this time around.

Both teams in the case have upped their game in entering the retrial. Judge Steven O’Neill has given prosecutors the green light for testimony by five other women who allege they were assaulted by Cosby, including model Janice Dickinson, to show that Constand’s accusations reflect a greater pattern of Cosby harming women.

Dickinson has been a vocal accuser of Cosby in the past; in her 2002 memoir she wanted to include her experience being allegedly drugged and assaulted by Cosby, but her publishers barred her from it. When Cosby’s assault allegations first came into focus in 2014, Dickinson detailed to the media that she had been raped by him. 

In the original trial, only one additional accuser was granted to take the stand.

Cosby, 80, has a new legal team led by Tom Mesereau, whose previous credits include defending Michael Jackson’s during his child molestation trial. The Associated Press notes that the legal team’s strategy is to paint Constand as a money-hungry liar, and the additional testifiers as merely seeking fame.

Cosby’s lawyers will also call a witness, a former co-worker of Constand's at Temple University, who claims Constand once spoke of suing a “high-profile person” to cash in on a big payday. Constand denies these claims.

Also distinct from the first trial is the public conversation around sexual assault and rape. In the months since the mistrial, the rise of the #MeToo movement has seen the downfall of figures including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Sen. Al Franken, and Matt Lauer, among many others, as allegations about sexual assault and harassment against them became public.

In selecting the jury, almost every person had heard of #MeToo, AP reported. The jury is made up of seven men and five women.

Like the first trial, the retrial will take place in Norristown.

It was already a crazy scene on Monday morning as a topless protester reportedly jumped in front of Cosby as he walked to the county courthouse. The woman, who chanted “women’s lives matter” and had the same words written in black and read on her chest, was stopped by police and taken into custody.