Topless protester who charged past Bill Cosby had been a guest star on his TV show
Judge O'Neill's interview with a juror pushed back the start of what was to be first day of testimony in a case that has embroiled Cosby for more than two years.
The woman arrested for running topless past Bill Cosby as he arrived for his retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday is herself an actress — and appeared four times as a guest star on his eponymous sitcom, "The Cosby Show."
It wasn't clear how closely Nicolle Rochelle, a 38-year-old actress from Little Falls, N.J., knew or worked with Cosby during the four episodes in which she appeared between 1990 and 1992. She has also acted under the name Nicole Leach.
But on Sunday afternoon, Rochelle had posted to her Facebook page a photo of herself on the steps of a New York City home used as the exterior of the Cosby family house on the program. In the photo she is wearing a version of Cosby's iconic "Hello Friend" sweatshirt, with the word "Rapist" scrawled over it in marker.
"In honor of the first day of the Bill Cosby retrial, I went by the address where they filmed The Cosby Show exterior in New York City," she wrote in the caption. "Let's hope justice will finally be served!"
Deputies arrested Rochelle outside the Norristown courthouse after she broke through security barricades just after 8:30 a.m. and ran in front of the 80-year-old entertainer, shouting "Women's lives matter!" She had painted various slogans and names of Cosby accusers across her torso and chest.
"I was hoping the victims would feel some sort of a connection with me," she later told reporters in a FaceTime interview from her Norristown hotel room. "I can express anger that they can't express."
Rochelle explained from a cellphone held by another Cosby accuser – Lili Bernard – that she had planned her protest as a one-time event. Rochelle said that she, personally, had not had a bad experience with Cosby on the TV show set.
Still, her arrest kicked off what was to be a morning filled with opening arguments from lawyers in Cosby's second trial for his alleged 2004 assault on Andrea Constand.
Cosby showed no visible reaction as his publicist, Andrew Wyatt, kept him back as Rochelle was placed in handcuffs.
But soon after he arrived in the courtroom, Judge Steven T. O'Neill announced he was delaying the proceedings while he dealt with a disruption of another sort – a defense motion late Friday seeking to remove one of the 12 jurors selected to hear the retrial.
Cosby's lawyers allege that the man was overheard by another potential juror last week telling others: "I just think he's guilty."
They learned of the alleged remarks after another prospective member of the panel contacted the 80-year-old entertainer's lawyers to report she had overheard the juror's statements while waiting last week to be interviewed by Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill during jury selection, the defense filing said.
Cosby's lawyers had said that they feared they would be unable to find a jury that had not heard about the allegations against their client. And it soon became clear, as more than half of the 360 prospective jurors polled said they had already formed a fixed opinion about Cosby's guilty or innocence.
But Juror No. 11 – the man the defense sought to remove Monday – had told O'Neill during a one-on-one interview that he could set aside what he had heard about the case.
In their motion Friday, Cosby's lawyer quoted an affidavit from the other prospective juror who alleged she had overheard the man say something far different before his interview."I just think he's guilty, so we can all go home," he told others, according to the woman, whose name was not revealed in the filing.
O'Neill appeared briefly in the Norristown courtroom Monday morning to explain that he intended to privately interview both the prospective juror who contacted the defense and the juror that made the purported statement before deciding if it warranted removing or replacing the juror.
"I am protecting the essence of the process, which is the jurors itself," O'Neill said. "And to be sure that we can continue a fair and impartial trial, making sure that we have jurors that are properly seated."
They had not emerged from their closed-door conference as of 12:30 p.m.
Cosby is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. He has pleaded not guilty.
. Last year, a jury hearing the case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict prompting the retrial scheduled to start Monday.
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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Rochelle charged at Cosby. She ran past him.