Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared in The Cosby Show
Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared in The Cosby Show

Chaos as biggest trial of #MeToo era begins

THERE was chaos outside a US court when a topless protester tried to attack Bill Cosby as he arrived for his retrial over allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman he met at his former university.

Demonstrators waving placards chanted, "No more silence, stop sexual violence!" and, "Justice for survivors, justice for Andrea!" while counter-protesters yelled out, "Justice for Bill!"

Mr Cosby stepped from his car with a walking stick, slowly put on his coat and walked into a court on the outskirts of Philadelphia surrounded by cameras, for what has been labelled the first big sex trial in the age of #MeToo.

It was then that a woman jumped over the wall and was tackled into a bush by police, arrested and taken into custody as she shouted, "Women's Lives Matter, hey hey hey!" The slogan was also scrawled in red ink across her chest.

"This is a circus," one onlooker remarked.

She was later identified as Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared in several epsiodes of The Cosby Show, and charged with summary disorderly conduct. The 39-year-old could face a fine.

The #MeToo movement is proving an important factor in this case, with jurors asked during selection how much they knew about the campaign and whether it would affect their decision-making.

And the wrangling continued on Monday. Opening statements and first witnesses were expected to be heard this morning, but Mr Cosby's Hollywood lawyer Tom Mesereau raised objections to a juror who had been heard stating that he already thought the defendant was guilty.

The topless protester screamed, ‘Women’s Lives Matter!’ as she was taken into custody.
The topless protester screamed, ‘Women’s Lives Matter!’ as she was taken into custody.

Judge Steven O'Neill delayed the trial's start to question the juror in private.

Six women will take the stand to allege Mr Cosby sexually assaulted them as the former TV star's retrial begins in Pennsylvania.

His first trial last year ended with a hung jury. Andrea Constand and another woman accused the comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting them. Mr Cosby has denied all wrongdoing and said his encounter with Ms Constand was consensual.

This time, four more women will allege The Cosby Show actor attacked them as he faces three charges of aggravated indecent assault at the courthouse in Norrisville, northwest of Philadelphia.

One of those women is supermodel Janice Dickinson, who will say the comedian drugged and raped her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982 when she was 27 and he was 45. She has also sued him for defamation.

The others were aspiring actresses, models and a bartender when they say they were assaulted by Mr Cosby between 1982 and 1989.

Former model Janice Dickinson is one of the new witnesses, who claims Bill Cosby knocked her out with a pill and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982, when she was 27 and Cosby was 45. Picture: AP Photo/Nick Ut, File
Former model Janice Dickinson is one of the new witnesses, who claims Bill Cosby knocked her out with a pill and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982, when she was 27 and Cosby was 45. Picture: AP Photo/Nick Ut, File

Ms Constand is the only woman whose complaint has resulted in criminal charges against the performer once dubbed "America's Dad". His reputation began to fade in 2014, when the first of at least 23 women alleged he drugged and raped them.

Mr Cosby's defence will call at least three witnesses, including Marguerite Jackson, a Temple University academic adviser who says that Ms Constand, who worked with the women's basketball team, once told her she could make money by falsely claiming that she had been molested by someone famous.

Ms Constand, who met Mr Cosby at Temple University - his alma mater, previously said she did not know Ms Jackson, who was not called as a witness in the first trial.

Andrea Constand, 44, will repeat her allegations Mr Cosby drugged and molested her after they met at his alma mater in early 2004. Picture: Lucas Jackson/Pool Photo via AP, File
Andrea Constand, 44, will repeat her allegations Mr Cosby drugged and molested her after they met at his alma mater in early 2004. Picture: Lucas Jackson/Pool Photo via AP, File

Mr Cosby called only one defence witness during the trial last year, a detective who testified for just six minutes.

The sitcom star's defence team will be led by Tom Mesereau, a high-profile lawyer who helped acquit Michael Jackson in his 2005 child molestation trial and has represented Mike Tyson.

High-profile Hollywood lawyer Tom Mesereau will represent the 80-year-old TV star after the jury failed to reached a verdict in his first trial ten months ago. Mr Meserau is best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial and has represented boxer Mike Tyson. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File
High-profile Hollywood lawyer Tom Mesereau will represent the 80-year-old TV star after the jury failed to reached a verdict in his first trial ten months ago. Mr Meserau is best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial and has represented boxer Mike Tyson. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

The court will hear of how much Mr Cosby paid in a settlement with Ms Constand in a 2006 civil suit, during which the actor said he had previously given sedative-hypnotic drug Quaaludes to women for consensual sex.

The first trial took just six days, with jurors deliberating for another 52 hours before deciding they could not reach a unanimous verdict. The retrial is likely to last as long as a month.

The 12-person jury is made up of five women and seven men, with one male and one female African-American, just like the first.

This time, however, they will come from the local area. Last time, Mr Cosby had jurors brought in from Pittsburgh, 480 kilometres away, because he was concerned locals would be affected by the pre-trial publicity.



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