PHILADELPHIA — At his only criminal court appearance to date, aging TV icon Bill Cosby stumbled past a scrum of photographers while two lawyers held him up on either side, walking him into a suburban Philadelphia courtroom.
The attorneys hired to defend Cosby in the sex-assault case are a study in contrasts:
— Outsider Monique Pressley, a lawyer-turned-TV legal analyst with side jobs as a pastor, motivational speaker and radio host, who got a taste of the limelight as a law student, posing a question about race in the O.J. Simpson trial on CNN’s Larry King Live.
— Insider Brian McMonagle, a revered local criminal lawyer whose past clients include mobsters, rappers, athletes and — in a case with some parallels to Cosby’s — the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia during the searing priest-pedophile scandal.
“He takes a very, very aggressive posture, but does it in a diplomatic and smooth fashion. It’s almost like an iron fist in a velvet glove. He is a strong advocate for his client, but can break tension with a quip or a joke,” said fellow Philadelphia criminal lawyer William J. Brennan. “Mr. Cosby is lucky to have him.”
McMonagle, 57, is expected to lead the defense arguments inside the courtroom when Cosby, 78, returns to court Feb. 2 in a crucial bid to have the case dismissed. He will attack the 12-year delay to file charges, the use of Cosby’s deposition from accuser Andrea Constand’s civil case, and the government’s plan to call other accusers to show a pattern of behavior.
But Pressley will be the lawyer people see on TV in their living rooms.
Pressley, 45, was plucked from relative obscurity to lead the sprawling flock of lawyers Cosby has deployed to fight sex-assault and defamation battles in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California, involving some of the dozens of women who accuse him of drugging and molesting them. After stints as both a prosecutor and public defender in Washington, D.C., she was doing TV commentary on the case when she impressed someone in the Cosby camp last fall.
“She’s got his confidence,” said celebrity defense lawyer Mark Geragos. “Obviously, you can’t diminish the fact that you would want a female on the defense team. You’re going to have female after female coming up and accusing him. … And race is always a subtext in the criminal justice system.”
Pressley, who is black, could boost Cosby’s battered standing in the black community. McMonagle, who is white, may play to jurors in mostly white Montgomery County.