Former ‘Cosby Show’ actor charges at star ahead of retrial

Bill Cosby, accused of sexually assaulting more than 50 women, in court over 2004 case

A protester is escorted out by the the police after breaking through the barriers, as actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for the first day of his sexual assault retrial. Photograph: Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters

A protester is escorted out by the the police after breaking through the barriers, as actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for the first day of his sexual assault retrial. Photograph: Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters

 

A former Cosby Show actor stripped off her top and confronted comedian Bill Cosby as he returned to a Pennsylvania court on Monday for the start of his retrial on sexual assault charges.

As Mr Cosby walked toward court, accompanied by two publicists and a police escort, Nicolle Rochelle climbed over a barrier and began shouting. The words “Women’s Lives Matters” and the names of Mr Cosby’s accusers were written in red and black lettering on her bare torso.

Uniformed officers wrestled her into the bushes and on to the ground as Mr Cosby’s entourage followed a few steps behind. After a minor delay, he proceeded into court where opening arguments were due to take place after pretrial issues were resolved.

Ms Rochelle was charged with disorderly conduct and could be fined if convicted, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Ms Rochelle (39) of Little Falls, New Jersey, appeared in four episodes of The Cosby Show from 1990-1992, playing the characters Danielle and Davina while credited as Nicole Leach. She used that name for acting credits until changing it about a decade ago, according to the show business data base IMDb.com.

The international women’s movement Femen claimed responsibility for organising the protest, saying in a statement that Ms Rochelle was one of its activists.

Mr Cosby (80) played the witty and beloved patriarch on The Cosby Show, becoming known as “America’s Dad”. He has since fallen from grace.

Bill Cosby walks through the Montgomery County Courthouse during jury selection at his sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Mark Makela/AFP/Getty Images
Bill Cosby walks through the Montgomery County Courthouse during jury selection at his sexual assault retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Mark Makela/AFP/Getty Images

Criminal trial

The accuser in the case, Andrea Constand (44) is one of more than 50 women who have accused Mr Cosby of sexual assaults, some dating back decades. Mr Cosby has said the encounters were consensual.

Ms Constand’s case, dating to 2004 when she was an administrator at Temple University, Mr Cosby’s alma mater, is the only one to go to criminal trial.

If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, Mr Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison.

The trial is expected to last about a month at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. A seven-man, five-woman jury was selected last week.

In June, the first jury failed to come to a unanimous verdict on charges that Mr Cosby drugged and assaulted Ms Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial.

The court is likely to hear much of the same evidence as in the first trial, where Ms Constand testified that Mr Cosby gave her pills that rendered her powerless to stop him from touching her.

But each side comes to the second trial with fresh ammunition after a series of pretrial rulings by the judge.

Mr O’Neill granted a prosecution request to allow testimony by five other women who accuse Mr Cosby of sexual assault in order to show he engaged in a pattern of behaviour, using a particular modus operandi. At the first trial, he allowed prosecutors to call only one other accuser.

And he granted a defence request to allow testimony from a woman who claims Ms Constand mused aloud about falsely accusing a famous man to get money. The judge barred her at the first trial.

The retrial unfolds against the backdrop of the national #MeToo movement, highlighting sexual assault and misconduct in Hollywood. – Reuters/AP