Cosby lawyers: Prosecutors withheld, destroyed key evidence

PHILADELPHIA — Bill Cosby’s lawyers have accused prosecutors of withholding and destroying evidence that they say could have helped the 80-year-old entertainer defend himself against charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Cosby’s lawyers said in court papers Thursday that prosecutors waited until last week to tell them about an interview last year with a former Temple University colleague who said Andrea Constand told her she wasn’t sexually assaulted but could make up allegations to sue and get money.

The lawyers said they learned of the interview with Marguerite Jackson from a prosecutor during a Jan. 17 conference call. Detectives destroyed their notes from the interview, which was conducted before Cosby’s first trial that ended in a hung jury in June, the lawyers said.

Now, Cosby’s lawyers are asking a judge to throw out the case before prosecutors get a chance to retry him in April, saying their actions have deprived Cosby of “any meaningful right to a fair trial.”

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said there were inaccuracies in the papers filed by Cosby’s lawyers and that prosecutors would be responding in their own filing within 10 days.

One of Cosby’s lawyers, Sam Silver, said Friday he was withdrawing from the case. He declined to discuss his departure.

Judge Steven O’Neill blocked Cosby’s lawyers from calling Jackson to the witness stand at his first trial, ruling her testimony would be hearsay after Constand testified that she didn’t know the woman. O’Neill also is handling Cosby’s retrial.

Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, later read a statement from Jackson to reporters on the courthouse steps. Jackson recalled Constand commenting to her about setting up a “high-profile person” after they saw a television news report about a celebrity who was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Jackson said Constand claimed something similar happened to her. When pressed, Jackson said, Constand backed off and said she could “say it happened and file charges, file a civil suit, get the money, go to school and open up a business,” Jackson said.

According to Cosby’s lawyers, Jackson told detectives in the interview last year that she and Constand had worked closely together, had been friends and had shared hotel rooms several times.

In their filing, Cosby’s lawyers said Jackson’s conversation with Constand happened in 2003 or 2004. She said in her statement that it was while they were on a road trip with Temple’s women’s basketball team. Constand was the team’s operations director.

Cosby’s lawyers faulted prosecutors for keeping those details to themselves and not speaking up when Constand testified she didn’t know her or when the defense tried to persuade O’Neill to let Jackson testify.

Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, has said Jackson is “not telling the truth.”

Jackson told the Associated Press last June that she had spoken with the prosecution and with Cosby’s legal team prior to Cosby’s first trial. Jackson stood by her account and said she told Constand to contact authorities if she had been assaulted.