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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 Administration Plan To Reopen America Being Released Thursday.

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ABC News reports:

President Donald Trump’s plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic consists of three graduated phases, according to a copy of the proposed actions obtained by ABC News.

Trump unveiled the plan in a video conference call with the nation’s governors on Thursday afternoon. The state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.

“Phase one” calls on employers to telework where possible, return to work in phases, minimize non-essential travel and make accommodations for the vulnerable populations within the workforce. It calls on all vulnerable individuals to “shelter in place,” and when in public, all individuals should continue social distancing.

However, a critical piece to this is the “gating criteria” that all states and regions should achieve before they can move on to phase one. This includes a “downward trajectory” of reported “influenza-like illnesses,” “covid-like syndromic cases” and “documented cases” or “positive tests as a percent of total tests” within a 14-day period, as well as the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

In “phase two,” non-essential travel for employers can resume. Schools and organized youth activity can reopen. Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in places. Churches can open with social distancing. Elective surgeries can resume.

The third phase says bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation.

The president described the guidelines “as a bit of a negotiation,” a source said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Preview the Trump Adminstration US reopening plan here or below.

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U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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LONDON (AP) — U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November. 

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last Octoberon the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small. 

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him. 

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten. 

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

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