In a long-awaited opinion released Tuesday, the Pennsylvania judge who presided over Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case rejected Mr. Cosby’s arguments that he had received an unfair trial.
It was Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s first full written explanation of the decisions he made during the trial and his first expanded response to a list of grievances about the judge’s actions that the defense team has cited as grounds for its appeal. His decision allows Mr. Cosby’s appeal to move forward to a higher court in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Cosby’s team cited 11 grounds upon which to challenge the decision-making that factored into the jury’s finding last year that the entertainer had drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004.
Among Mr. Cosby’s arguments was the contention that Judge O’Neill had erred by allowing into evidence the testimony of five additional women who said they too had been intoxicated and sexually assaulted by Mr. Cosby.
In his 143-page opinion, Judge O’Neill of Montgomery County, Pa., rejected the reasoning on all 11 grounds, asserting that the testimony of the additional women was particularly relevant because of the “chilling similarities” in their accounts, which he said depicted a “signature” method of assaulting women.
Among the similarities, he cited, were observations that the women were all younger, physically fit and believed that Mr. Cosby was acting as their friend or mentor. The judge wrote that each of the women said she was maneuvered into a location he controlled, before being giving an intoxicant and then physically assaulted.
“In each instance, [he] met a substantially younger woman, gained her trust, invited her to a place where he was alone with her, provided her with a drink or drug, and sexually assaulted her once she was rendered incapacitated,” Judge O’Neill wrote. “These chilling similarities rendered [their] testimony admissible.”
“The defendant’s actions were so distinctive as to become a signature,” he wrote.
The prosecution had offered 19 other women as witnesses, and Judge O’Neill said he had found all their accounts “relevant and admissible.” But he said he had allowed only five to testify because of the prejudicial risk of allowing too many other witnesses in a case focusing on what had happened to Ms. Constand.
A spokesman for Mr. Cosby, who is serving a three- to 10-year sentence in a Pennsylvania prison, said in a statement that the judge’s ruling continued to show his errors and his personal bias against Mr. Cosby.
“I’m sure that his brief will further support our claims, that Mr. Cosby was falsely convicted, but he will be vindicated, when his appeal is reviewed by the appellate judges,” the statement said.
Judge O’Neill also rejected another argument raised by the defense lawyers, who said he had failed to properly credit what they described as a binding pledge to Mr. Cosby by a former district attorney, who testified that he had promised not to prosecute the entertainer when the case was first investigated in 2005.
Mr. Cosby was prosecuted by a subsequent district attorney in 2015.
Judge O’Neill said he found the statements by the former district attorney, Bruce L. Castor, to be inconsistent. As he recounted the case in some detail, Judge O’Neill wrote, “No non-prosecution agreement or promise was ever memorialized in writing, memorandum to investigative file, letter to counsel, or filed with any court.”
In addition, he rejected Mr. Cosby’s claim that the 12-year statute of limitations in the case had passed by the time charges were brought in December 2015, finding that Ms. Constand had consistently testified that the assault took place in 2004.