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Bill Cosby faces topless protester on first day of sexual assault retrial

  • First trial collapsed last June after jury failed to reach a verdict
  • TV comic faces three charges of aggravated indecent assault

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bill Cosby faces topless protester on first day of sexual assault retrial” was written by Ed Pilkington in New York, for The Guardian on Monday 9th April 2018 14.53 UTC

Bill Cosby faced a second jury of his peers in 10 months on Monday, as his retrial for alleged sexual assault got under way in a Pennsylvania court.

The comic also faced a topless protester, who jumped a barricade with “Women’s Lives Matter” and other phrases written in red and black on her body. The woman was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies, handcuffed and led away.

Cosby seemed startled by the commotion, as other protesters brandished placards that said “Take rape seriously” and “Justice for survivors”.

He was then led into the Montgomery county court of common pleas in Norristown, Pennslyania for what is likely to be remembered as the first major celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. Cosby faces three charges of aggravated indecent assault dating back to 2004. His first trial collapsed last June after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

The court had intended to launch straight into opening statements and calling first witnesses, but it hit a snag on Monday morning that pushed the start back. Cosby’s new and aggressive defence team, led by the white-haired Hollywood attorney Tom Mesereau, raised objections to one of the selected jurors who had apparently been overheard last week remarking about the defendant: “I just think he’s guilty, so we can all be done and get out of here.”

Judge Steven O’Neill postponed the trial to quiz the juror, who is anonymous and is identified only as No 11, about his alleged comment. The session was held in private.

Much has happened in the months separating the two trials, not least the explosion on social media of the #MeToo movement prompted by revelations of sexual harassment and assault involving prominent men in Hollywood, the media, politics and many other walks of life. How that new public climate affects the retrial may have a large bearing on Cosby’s fate.

He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, having pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Cosby, 80, was once lauded as “America’s Dad” for his role in the popular TV sitcom The Cosby Show. He has been accused by more than 50 women of sexual assault, though he denies the claims.

Both his trials have focused on a single individual – Andrea Constand, a Canadian massage therapist who forms the center of the prosecution case. She alleges that in 2004, when she was helping run the women’s basketball team in Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, he invited her to his home outside Philadelphia.

Constand, 44, alleges that he drugged her with three pills that made her drowsy, then sexually molested her. She reported the alleged attack a year later and when the local district attorney declined to press charges she brought a civil lawsuit against Cosby that was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2006.

Constand’s claims, and the defense attorneys’ efforts to discredit her credibility, were at the heart of the first trial last June. On that occasion, Cosby faced a jury of seven men and five women.

The panel for the second trial was to have exactly the same gender balance, with 10 members being white and two African American.

In pre-trial deliberations, Judge O’Neill made rulings on the evidence that can be presented to the jury that could be critically important. In particular, he allowed the size of the 2006 financial settlement between Cosby and Constand to be disclosed in court.

Instead of permitting just one other woman who alleged she was drugged and molested by Cosby to give testimony, as in the first trial, the judge gave the green light to five women being heard this time.

O’Neill was himself the issue of legal proceedings after Mesereau called on him to step aside on grounds that his social worker wife is an advocate for assault victims. He dismissed the demands, saying he was “not biased or prejudiced” by his wife’s work.

After her topless protest, Nicolle Rochelle, 39, was charged with disorderly conduct. She faces a small fine. She was fingerprinted and told to stay away from the courthouse for the rest of the trial.

In a phone call with reporters following her release, Rochelle said her protest was designed as a peaceful expression of solidarity with the women who have spoken out about Cosby.

“I wanted to show him that I wasn’t disempowered, I wanted him to feel my presence,” she said.

Rochelle appeared in The Cosby Show with the comic about six times, she said, when she was 12 years old. She said that she had not had any bad experiences at his hands personally.

She had decided on removing her clothes as a way of drawing attention to her protest. The slogan “Women’s Lives Matter” that she had painted in red ink on her chest was conceived by her, as a black woman, to make the point that Cosby’s race should not obscure what he is alleged to have done.

“You can’t make it all about race and leave the rape out of it,” she said.

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Trump May Pardon Military Men Accused Or Convicted Of War Crimes

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday.


Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said.

One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

Also believed to be included is the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.

Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.

The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.

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Migrant Crisis

Trump Administration Considers Flying Migrants Across Country to Relieve Border Crowding

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Migrants wait in El Paso, Texas, to board a van to take them to a processing center on May 16. PHOTO: PAUL RATJE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.


For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.

Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.

“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”

Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.

The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.

Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.

Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.

“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”

The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.

The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.

The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.

Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.

(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)

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Trump Administration Rejects Subpoena For Tax Returns

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is missing another deadline to produce President Donald Trump’s tax returns. A top House Democrat says he expects to take the administration to court as early as next week over the matter.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says in a letter Friday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Mnuchin’s rejection of the subpoena had been expected. Earlier Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal had said, “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”

Democrats are seeking Trump’s tax returns under a 1924 law that directs the IRS to furnish such information to the chairs of Congress’ tax-writing committees.

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