PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS New York/AP) — A topless protester who jumped a barricade and got within a few feet of Bill Cosby as he walked into a suburban Philadelphia courthouse for his sexual assault retrial has been taken into custody.
Nicolle Rochelle, 39, of Little Falls, New Jersey, ran in front of Cosby on Monday but was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies.
The 80-year-old Cosby is accused of drugging and molesting a woman at his home in 2004.
As a child Rochelle appeared on several episodes of “The Cosby Show,” but later said she didn’t have any bad experiences with him when she was on the show, nor did she intend to physically hurt him.
Cosby seemed startled by the commotion as protesters chanted at him, but he was not touched and was uninjured. He was led into the courthouse after the woman was led away in handcuffs, raising concerns about future security issues among Cosby’s spokespeople.
“We don’t know if a person could have a weapon on them, but the officers of Montgomery County did a fantastic job of taking action and taking that person down,” said publicist Andrew Wyatt after the incident.
Rochelle was charged with disorderly conduct and released.
“The main goal was to make Cosby uncomfortable because that is exactly what he has been doing for decades to women and to show him that the body can be aggressive and empowered,” she said.
Rochelle, a member of the European feminist group Femen which is known for staging topless protests around the world, was among about a half dozen people chanting in support of Cosby’s accuser. She had “Women’s Lives Matter” written in red ink on her chest and stomach along with other phrases in black and red all over her body.
Inside the courthouse, the trial faced a delay all morning after a jury member was overheard saying Cosby “was guilty” while waiting for jury selection review. Judge Steven O’Neill was questioning the juror about the charge.
Prosecutors are lining up a parade of accusers to make the case that the man revered as “America’s Dad” lived a double life as one of Hollywood’s biggest predators.
Cosby is fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy. Last month the defense first demanded O’Neill recuse himself as judge, arguing in court papers that he could be seen as biased because his wife is a social worker who has described herself as an “advocate for assault victims.”
The defense team is attacking accuser Andrea Constand as a liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.
Cosby’s first trial last spring ended in a hung jury.
His retrial is taking place in a radically changed and potentially more hostile environment. The #MeToo movement caught fire four months after the first trial, raising awareness of sexual misconduct as it toppled Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men.
Nearly every potential juror questioned for the case this time knew about #MeToo.
Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that could help prosecutors overcome the skepticism some jurors had last time about Constand’s yearlong wait to report her allegations to the police.
“The #MeToo movement is amplifying what experts have been saying for decades: People are ashamed, they’re confused, they can’t believe somebody they trust would hurt them, and then they worry that others won’t believe them,” Houser said.
After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge Steven O’Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Constand’s allegations.
This time, O’Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers testify — including model Janice Dickinson — as they attempt to show Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women. The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand last time.
“This one will be harder for the defense,” Levenson said. This time, Constand “is not alone, and there is strength in numbers.”
In another difference, the judge this time is letting Cosby’s legal team call as a witness a former co-worker of Constand’s at Temple University who said Constand spoke of setting up a “high-profile person” so she could sue and enjoy a big payday. Constand’s lawyer has said the co-worker is lying.
The judge also decided the jury can hear the answer to one of the biggest questions hanging over the case: How much did Cosby pay Constand to settle her lawsuit against him more than a decade ago? The two sides agreed at the first trial not to mention the lawsuit.
Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case, said the jury will learn “just how greedy” Constand was.
In a twist, the judge hinted that he might not allow jurors to hear Cosby’s lurid deposition testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex. He said he would rule on it during the trial. Cosby testified in 2005 and 2006 as part of Constand’s lawsuit.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Dickinson have done.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)