Bill Cosby's lawyers took aim Wednesday at the 13 additional accusers prosecutors hope to call as witnesses at his sexual assault trial next year, calling the women liars with "ancient, remote, incredible, uncorroborated, bandwagon allegations."
Allowing a jury to hear their decades-old and inscrutably vague claims, lawyer Brian J. McMonagle said, would make it impossible for Cosby to receive a fair trial, a strategy he said was built by a group of "clever, cunning lawyers who have as an agenda the bringing down of an American icon."
The case "never had anything to do with Andrea Constand," McMonagle said, referring to the central accuser. "This case was a way to try to vindicate . . . a bandaged bandwagon of claims that have been put together in Pandora's box."
The arguments came as Cosby and his lawyers returned to a Norristown courtroom for a second day to debate what could be the key legal issue in the 79-year-old entertainer's prosecution.
Judge Steven T. O'Neill gave no indication Wednesday how or when he would rule on the matter, saying only that he would do "exhaustive research" before making a decision.
"This is, I will say, a case like no other in how it has been presented," he said from the bench.
Prosecutors say the testimony from the 13 women is crucial to their argument that a celebrity once known as "America's Dad" was a serial sex predator and that his attack on Constand fit a pattern.
Without it, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said, the case against Cosby rests solely on Constand's uncorroborated testimony of events that occurred 12 years ago.
The evidence will show "a lifetime of sexual assault on young women," he said. "He uses his fame, notoriety, and public status to instill trust in the victim and then he exploits that trust."
Unlike a day earlier, when the proceedings descended into shouting matches between lawyers, both sides presented their arguments calmly Wednesday.
At one point, as Steele offered graphic descriptions of the women's allegations, Cosby leaned forward, raised his eyebrows, and locked his eyes on the prosecutor. But he remained silent. In the past, Cosby's lawyers have said he may be too blind to identify his accusers.
Cosby's defense said many of the women's claims had been shaped by lawyers such as Gloria Allred, who represents more than half the accusers.
Allred flew to Philadelphia to meet with prosecutors in January, weeks after Cosby's arrest. Defense lawyer Angela Agrusa said the statements that several of Allred's clients gave to detectives were identical to news releases her office issued.
"The momentum started by these cleverly crafted statements that were pigeonholed to fit into what might resemble a carefully crafted scene," Agrusa said. "She got the DA's Office to be her bagman."
Allred, who attended the hearing, later said such claims were desperate.
Prosecutors say any similarities in the women's statements reinforce a pattern in the assaults.
Cosby lawyers also offered a glimpse of how they might attack the women in cross-examination, spending hours picking apart each of their accounts.
" 'Some time in the early 1970s - not sure when - we were drinking champagne and smoking pot.' Now, defend against that," McMonagle said, sarcastically recapping the account of one accuser. "Our Supreme Court would scoff."
Balking about another who said she had been assaulted at some time between 1982 and 1985, the lawyer quipped: "The only way you could have an alibi for that one is if you were in a coma for three years."
Nearly all 13 women have come forward with their accusations in interviews, lawsuits, or both.
Agrusa said many had acknowledged in interviews with detectives that their memories had been shaped by hearing the accusations of others in news reports and on TV. Several have given repeated interviews and gone on to become activists for sexual assault victims.
"She has turned talking about Mr. Cosby into a career," Agrusa said of Heidi Thomas, a 56-year-old from Colorado who says Cosby got her drunk and forced her to perform oral sex when they met in Nevada in 1984.
Others say they cannot recall being assaulted, only inferring that they had been after waking up woozy and sensing that something had happened to them.
And the actions of a handful - including Therese Serignese, who claims Cosby gave her two pills in Las Vegas in 1975 and then raped her - make no sense, McMonagle told the judge.
"After the assault, she goes to his penthouse with him," he said. "Then she spends two weeks in Tahoe with him. And she's so traumatized by the event that she has a 20-year affair with him after."
Steele said many of the women did not come forward earlier because they did not think anyone would believe their allegations against a celebrity and because their memories were fuzzy because Cosby drugged them.
Like Constand, he said, each originally turned to Cosby seeking friendship or career advice before he plied them with pills or drinks.
"He has been able to make people quiet because they're confused," Steele said. "Because they're trying to piece together what has happened to them."
Pennsylvania law allows testimony about so-called prior bad acts if it establishes a common scheme or pattern of behavior by a defendant.
But judges must weigh the value of such unproven claims against the threat of unfairly prejudicing a jury against the accused. A miscalculation in Cosby's case could unravel a potential conviction on appeal, as it did in perhaps the best-known recent case in which evidence of past uncharged crimes played a central role - the child endangerment trial of the Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archdiocese's former secretary of clergy, Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Two state appellate courts have found that the trial judge in that case overstepped by allowing jurors to hear evidence of 21 other purported, decades-old incidents of sex abuse by priests that were allegedly covered up by the archdiocese.
O'Neill nodded to that concern Wednesday, acknowledging that he could allow all, none, or just some of the 13 women to testify based on his assessment of how their accounts relate to Constand's.
He has said he hopes to hold Cosby's trial - with or without them - by June.