Cosby's lawyers cite grounds for appealing sexual assault conviction

Dec 11 (Reuters) - Attorneys for Bill Cosby outlined their grounds on Tuesday for appealing his sexual assault conviction, citing what they called errors in legal procedure that may have biased the jury and warrant a new trial for the once-beloved comedian.

The 81-year-old performer, best known for his role as the lovable family man and physician on the hit television sitcom "The Cosby Show," was found guilty by a Pennsylvania jury in April of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend in 2004.

It marked the first such criminal conviction of a celebrity accused of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement that has brought down dozens of powerful, privileged men in American media, politics and business since the autumn of 2017.

In September, the trial judge, Steven O'Neill, designated Cosby a "sexually violent predator" under Pennsylvania law, requiring the entertainer to register as a sex offender for life, and sentenced him to a term of three to 10 years in prison.

Cosby, who is married, has insisted all along that any sexual encounters he had were consensual. He was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Related: Inside the Bill Cosby retrial:

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NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 12: Bill Cosby accuser model Janice Dickinson, 63, walks through the Montgomery County Courthouse after lunch to testify on the fourth day of the sexual assault retrial on April 12, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 12: Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for the fourth day of his sexual assault retrial on April 12, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby arriving to Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Chelan Lasha weeps as she returns to the courtroom after recess during the third day in the sexual assault case against actor and comedian Bill Cosby at the Montgomery County Courthouse April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The comedian is accused by a former Temple University employee of allegedly drugging and molesting her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. (Photo by Dominick Reuter-Pool/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 12: Bill Cosby accuser model Janice Dickinson, 63, walks through the Montgomery County Courthouse after lunch to testify on the fourth day of the sexual assault retrial on April 12, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Actor and comedian, Bill Cosby, returns to the courtroom after lunch recess during the third day of the retrial of his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 11, 2018. Dominick Reuter/Pool via Reuters
Attorney Gloria Allred arrives for the third day of actor and comedian, Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 11, 2018. Dominick Reuter/Pool via Reuters
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
Files for the prosecution?s case against actor and comedian Bill Cosby are wheeled into the courtroom for the second day of Cosby's sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 10, 2018. David Maialetti/Pool via Reuters?
Boxes of documents are wheeled into the courtroom on the third day of the retrial of actor and comedian Bill Cosby's sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 11, 2018. Dominick Reuter/Pool via Reuters
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom is seen around the Montgomery County Courthouse during the third day of Bill Cosby's sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80-year-old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Bill Cosby's personal attorney Tom L. Larkin and actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 11: Actor/ stand-up comedian Bill Cosby arriving to Montgomery County Courthouse for the third day of his retrial for sexual assault charges on April 11, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
District Attorney Kevin Steele, with Andrea Constand and prosecutors on his side gives emotional remarks after the guilty verdict of Bill Cosby on all three counts in he sexual assault trial of the comedian an actor, during a press conference, at the Montgomery County District Attorneys office in Norristown, PA, USA, on April 26, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Gloria Allred, victims and supporters react after the guilty verdict of Bill Cosby, outside the court house, in Norristown, PA, on April 26, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 26: Bill Cosby accusers Victoria Valentino (R), Caroline Heldman (L) and Lili Bernard (2L) react after the guilty on all counts verdict was delivered in the sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was found guilty on all accounts after a former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 26: A woman reacts outside the courtroom upon hearing that Bill Cosby was found guilty on all counts in his sexual assault retrial on April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was found guilty on all accounts after a former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Andrea Constand and prosecutors on here side reacts the guilty verdict of Bill Cosby on all three counts in he sexual assault trial of the comedian an actor, during a press conference, at the Montgomery County District Attorneys office in Norristown, PA, USA, on April 26, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 26: Bill Cosby accusers (L-R) Caroline Heldman and Lili Bernard react after the guilty on all counts verdict was delivered in the sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was found guilty on all accounts after a former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 26: Bill Cosby accusers (L-R) Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino (far right) react after the guilty on all counts verdict was delivered in the sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was found guilty on all accounts after a former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Bill Cosby departs on bail after being found guilty on all three accounts of sexual assault, at Montgomery County Court House, in Norristown, PA, USA, on April 26, 2018. After the first trial last year resulted in a hung jury actor and entertainer Bill Cosby is found guilty on three counts of sexual assault. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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In an eight-page filing laying out the basis of their appeal, Cosby's lawyers focused on several instances they said introduced bias into the trial, including the judge's refusal to excuse a juror that the defense argued was unable to be fair and impartial.

The defense asserted that the juror in question had stated an inclination to believe Cosby guilty at the outset of the trial, and that fellow jurors were never interviewed to determine whether they had heard the comment or were swayed by it.

In addition, according to the filing, O'Neill failed to recuse himself or disclose a biased relationship with Bruce Castor, a former Montgomery County district attorney with whom defense lawyers said the judge had a confrontation.

Cosby's lawyers have argued that Castor promised in 2005 that Cosby would not be prosecuted if he agreed to sit for a sworn deposition in a civil suit brought against him by his accuser, former Temple University administrator Andrea Constand.

That deposition, in which Cosby acknowledged giving sedatives called Quaaludes to young women for purposes of having sex with them, was unsealed a decade later, and Castor's successor, District Attorney Kevin Steele, cited it as a crucial piece of evidence when criminal charges were brought.

The judge should not have allowed Cosby's civil deposition testimony about Quaaludes to be introduced in his criminal trial, the defense said, arguing it was not relevant to Constand's allegations and was highly prejudicial because it included statements regarding the illegal act of giving a narcotic to another person.

Cosby's attorneys also faulted the judge for allowing prosecutors to call as witnesses other accusers whose allegations, the defense argued, were too remote in time and too dissimilar to Constand's allegations.

Moreover, the defense asserted that a prosecution expert who testified relied on hearsay evidence of about 50 additional women who had leveled sexual misconduct allegations against Cosby.

Representatives for the prosecution did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)

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