A US judge on Monday delayed by just a few days the start of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, throwing out a bid by defense lawyers for a three-month postponement.
Judge Steven O’Neill moved jury selection to April 2 instead of March 29 as originally scheduled, to hear outstanding pre-trial motions on March 29 and 30.
Cosby’s defense team, headed by Tom Mesereau, the celebrity Los Angeles attorney who got Michael Jackson acquitted of child molestation in 2005, had requested a longer delay of 90 days, which O’Neill denied.
It marks the second time that 80-year-old comedian will go on trial, accused of drugging and molesting a former university basketball official at his Philadelphia home in 2004.
In June, O’Neill declared a mistrial when the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
The trial irrevocably damaged the once towering icon of US popular culture, loved by millions as “America’s Dad” and best known for his seminal role as a father and obstetrician on hit 1984-92 TV series “The Cosby Show.”
Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning actor of being a serial sexual predator, but most of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute, meaning that the trial last year concerned only one of the alleged victims.
The Pennsylvania judge ruled last week that five additional women who claim to have been sexually assaulted by Cosby can testify at the re-trial, having last time ruled that only one other accuser could take the stand.
Cosby, now frail and isolated, risks spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
The actor denies the charges, saying his relations with Andrea Constand were consensual.
The Canadian has said Cosby gave her pills that left her semi-conscious, then made sexual advances — a story similar to those recounted by many of the other accusers.