A MONTGOMERY County judge on Wednesday denied a request from Bill Cosby's lawyers that the judge personally question 13 women whom prosecutors want to call as trial witnesses to try to prove a pattern of sexual misconduct by the entertainer.
But Judge Steven O'Neill has not yet decided whether the women can testify at trial. In an order, O'Neill said he would consider arguments on that issue during two days of hearings in December.
Prosecutors say the experiences of the 13 accusers align closely with that of Andrea Constand, who says Cosby drugged and molested her at his Cheltenham home in 2004.
Pennsylvania law allows testimony from prior victims about past acts if it establishes a common scheme and pattern of criminal behavior. Cosby's lawyers have challenged some of the women's claims and argue that their testimony should be excluded from trial.
The defense lawyers also suggested that some of the women are not competent to testify and had asked the judge to rule on that after questioning them privately in his chambers.
He denied that request, as well as the latest defense bid to throw out the case because of the 12-year delay in prosecuting it.
Cosby's lawyers argued, in part, that the case should be dismissed because he is legally blind and unable to identify his accusers.
In a new filing Wednesday, his lawyers provided additional details about his sight, calling his condition "end stage glaucoma." Cosby has "no light perception in his right eye," they said, and can only sense motion in one region of his left eye. His lawyers also submitted a letter indicating that he was eligible for registration with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, a state agency.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele praised O'Neill's rulings.
"The judge's rulings today get us one step closer to presenting our evidence at trial and furthers our pursuit of justice for the victim in our case," he said.
Still pending is a request to bar prosecutors from using a civil deposition Cosby gave in a lawsuit from Constand as evidence at trial. The judge said he would rule on that matter before the Dec. 13 and 14 pretrial hearings.
Cosby is charged with aggravated indecent assault and has been free on bail since his arrest in December. His trial is tentatively scheduled for June, but the judge has indicated he would like to hold it earlier.