The public face of Bill Cosby's defense has left his legal team, his spokesman said Wednesday - the latest shake-up in the 79-year-old entertainer's representation as his sexual-assault case heads toward a potential trial in Montgomery County.
Monique Pressley, a Washington-based lawyer who vaulted to prominence last year with her impassioned defenses of Cosby on national news shows as more than 50 women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, signaled her departure in court filings.
That leaves Philadelphia lawyer Brian J. McMonagle and Angela Agrusa as the lead attorneys on Cosby's criminal case.
Agrusa, whose Los Angeles-based firm has represented the country singer Blake Shelton and the doctor charged with overprescribing painkillers to the late model Anna Nicole Smith, joined the team last month after Cosby parted ways with another attorney, Christopher Tayback.
Pressley did not return requests for comment.
A 45-year-old native of Galveston, Texas, she was hired by Cosby last year after his legal advisers were impressed by her frequent appearances on TV as a legal analyst, including one discussing the entertainer's legal plight.
From the start, the minister and former Howard University debate coach made an impression as a lawyer equipped to handle what had largely become a tabloid story in a social media age.
She set herself apart from the rest of the legal team - consisting almost entirely of white men - through her frequent posts on Twitter and Instagram of photos of herself at Cosby's side, and her willingness to take on his detractors through quips of 140 characters or less.
The usually outspoken McMonagle, whose previous clients have included rappers, high-profile politicians, and Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, often deferred to Pressley to speak on Cosby's behalf, despite the fact that he was her first high-profile client.
Meanwhile, the case that could send Cosby to prison for the rest of his life continues its slow march toward a potential trial.
In filings made public this week, McMonagle sought to block prosecutors from using a 2005 deposition in which Cosby discussed his extramarital affairs and his use of drugs to seduce young women against him at trial.
The motion echoed arguments the defense has already made unsuccessfully in previous court proceedings in a bid to have its client's charges thrown out.
It has alleged Cosby agreed to sit for the deposition, in a civil suit brought by Andrea Constand, only because he had an agreement with then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. that Cosby would never be charged in the alleged drugging and assault of Constand.
Castor, who was sworn in Wednesday as Pennsylvania's acting attorney general, testified in a February hearing in Norristown that he crafted the "verbal non-prosecution agreement" after deciding not to prosecute Cosby more than a decade ago. He hoped, he said, to aid Constand's civil suit by removing any reason for the entertainer to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination during the deposition.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, who revived the Constand case late last year, has challenged the validity of any deal Castor says he struck and acknowledged that the unsealing of portions of the deposition sparked his interest in reopening the case.
Presiding Judge Steven T. O'Neill ruled in February that if such a deal existed, it did not preclude prosecutors from pursuing their current case against Cosby.
However, during the same hearing in which Castor testified, he signaled he might be more favorable to defense arguments over the whether the deposition could be introduced at any trial.
"Isn't the redress simply a motion to suppress [the deposition] and say a law enforcement agent induced me to give a statement against my interest that they are now attempting to use against me?" he asked Cosby's defense team before denying its bid to dismiss the case.
In the deposition transcript, excerpts of which were unsealed for the first time last year, Cosby denied Constand's allegations that he drugged and assaulted her during a visit to his Cheltenham home in January 2004. He also discussed giving Quaaludes to young women with whom he had consensual sexual encounters.
Cosby remains free on $1 million bail on a charge of aggravated indecent assault. O'Neill has not set a date for his trial.