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Jury selection begins in Bill Cosby’s trial for sex assault of lesbian

Bill Cosby, left, and Andrea ConstandPhoto: AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Ron Bull/Toronto Star/The Canadian Press via AP, right

Bill Cosby sat in a Pittsburgh courtroom Monday as his lawyers and prosecutors grilled the first potential jurors to decide whether he drugged and molested a Toronto woman 13 years ago.

What makes Andrea Constand stand out among dozens of women who have accused the disgraced comedian of sexual assault is that the former manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia is a lesbian. Constand told investigators in 2005 she sought his career advice, but that he drugged her and violated her by putting his hands down her pants at his mansion in suburban Philly.

Although Bruce Castor, the prosecutor at the time declined to file charges, his successor, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman overruled Castor’s decision and charged Cosby with aggravated indecent assault, just days before the 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out.

Cosby pleaded not guilty and remains free on $1 million bail.

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2017, file photo, Bill Cosby departs after a pretrial hearing in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA. AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File

When the prosecutor refused to charge Cosby, Constand sued him and reached an undisclosed settlement. But it was during this civil trial that the married TV star gave sworn testimony about a string of incidents in which he admitted to having sex with young women, some of whom he drugged with pills or alcohol beforehand. Cosby also acknowledged under oath that he had sexual contact with Constand, but claimed it was consensual.

Those records remained sealed until July 2015.

FILE – In this Dec. 31, 2015, file photo, Andrea Constand walks her dogs in Toronto, Canada. Marta Iwanek/The Canadian Press via AP, File

Potential jurors will be dismissed “for cause” if they admit to strong views about the case or Cosby, or can persuade Judge Steven O’Neill they have family, health or financial situations that prevent them from serving. After that, each side can strike seven people during jury selection and three more when they choose alternates. They need to seat a dozen jurors and six alternates willing to spend two weeks or more sequestered nearly 300 miles from Pittsburgh.

Lawyers hope to have the panel in place by the end of the week.

Cosby himself did not respond to questioned shouted at him by reporters outside court as he was led in by an assistant; Cosby has said he is now nearly blind. His attorneys told reporters he’s “looking forward” to getting jury selection started and is “holding up fine.”

Constand, who is now a personal trainer, did not appear in court.

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