By Stacy M. Brown
Judge Steven O’Neill has warned that the retrial in the criminal case of comedian Bill Cosby will likely last longer than the first trial. For Pennsylvania taxpayers, that means shelling out more money on top of the more than $220,000 spent on last year’s trial.
“The cost of the Cosby trial did not adversely impact the 2017 budget, and we have planned for it in our 2018 budget,” Montgomery County Chair of the Board of Commissioners Dr. Val Arkoosh told the NNPA Newswire. “Pennsylvania law gives the Montgomery County District Attorney, an independent elected official, sole legal authority for decisions relating to the prosecution of criminal activity, including the decision to move forward with a retrial of any case.”
Arkoosh continued: “The operation of the court system is the responsibility of the Montgomery Court of Common Pleas, an independent branch of government. The Montgomery County Commissioners are responsible for the cost of administering justice. We will, as always, fulfill those responsibilities to the justice system.”
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault, a case that stems from a 2004 encounter with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand.
The two had formed a relationship—he says romantic, she claims mentorship—in which they’d get together for dinner, cocktails and career discussions.
Sometimes they’d meet at Cosby’s Elkins Parks, Pennsylvania home, other times the two would cozy up near a fire in a hotel room sipping cognac.
However, on the night that Constand believed to be in January 2004, Cosby offered his friend two blue pills which he said were Benadryl to help her relax.
Constand said the pills made her drowsy and eventually incapacitated her.
She awakened to find Cosby’s hands in her pants; he had placed her hand was on his penis, Constand said. As night turned to morning, Cosby prepared breakfast—a muffin and Constand’s favorite tea. He asked her to call him when she got home.
A year later, Constand reported the incident to authorities.
During the two-week trial last year, a jury failed to unanimously agree on a verdict after more than 60 hours of deliberating which resulted in O’Neill declaring a mistrial.
Some believed the costs associated with the trial—which included shuttling a sequestered jury from Pittsburgh to and from hotels and assigning extra deputies for Cosby—would lead prosecutors to decide against a second trial.
Now, with O’Neill’s declaration that the retrial should last at least one month and the judge allowing five other accusers to testify, the trial may spill over into summer.
With a more than $410 million budget that included a seven percent increase for the district attorney’s office in 2017, the county can afford to continue its high-profile battle against Cosby, who’s reportedly worth $500 million.
It’s been reported that Cosby paid his former attorneys, a firm led by Brian McMonagle, as much as $1,500 per hour. He’s now hired an even higher profile team headed by former Michael Jackson attorney Tom Mesereau.
“The costs of representation vary by jurisdiction, client and circumstance,” said attorney Gregory Q. Carter of the G. Carter Law Firm, an African American-owned firm in New Orleans. “Considering the high-profile nature of Mr. Cosby, the numerous reports of secondary accusers, and the voluminous amount of discovery, it’s likely the defense costs will dwarf that which the county reported.”
Carter continued: “In a trial of this stature, it is typical for the defense firm to be solely dedicated to representing the individual client. In addition, it is likely the defense requires investigators, additional staff attorneys, and experts to be employed to fully vet and present the defense.”
Unfortunately, money plays a major factor in most criminal trials, said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a professor of law at the University of Dayton.
“It dictates many things that you can and cannot do. Our system is built on a plea-bargaining system that’s stacked against the defense in that the government has a bottomless pit,” Hoffmeister said. “They’ll never run out of money.”