Bill Cosby loses another defense lawyer as his second trial looms

Is Bill Cosby having a hard time finding new lawyers to defend him at his second trial on sexual assault charges in November?

It looks that way given that his lead attorney, Brian McMonagle of Philadelphia, said earlier this month he would bow out of the case, and Cosby’s second lead attorney, Angela Agrusa of Los Angeles, filed paperwork Tuesday saying she intended to step down, too.

Agrusa said in her motion to withdraw that Cosby is seeking new counsel but factors beyond his control, including summer and trial schedules and the “particularities of this high-profile and sensationalized matter” are slowing down his search. 

As a result, Cosby is seeking to delay until Sept. 11 a pre-trial hearing in Norristown, Pa., set for Aug. 22 to discuss, among other matters, whether or not he will have new lawyers by then. 

Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman, declined to comment but said in an email to USA TODAY “our new counsel will be in place by the end of the month.” When McMonagle said he intended to step aside, Wyatt said he was “vetting lawyers on my short list” to replace him.  

No one on the Cosby team is explaining why McMonagle and Agrusa want out of the case.

Their bid to leave follows an embarrassing controversy, shortly after the first trial ended in a hung jury on June 17, when Wyatt told a morning chat show in Birmingham, Ala., that Cosby intended to launch a series of town hall lectures to young people about how to avoid “bad behavior” that could get them charged with sexual assault.

Outrage ensued, and Agrusa told reporters a criminal defendant facing a second trial should not be saying anything at all in public. Cosby later denied he planned any lectures, calling such reports media “propaganda.” 

McMonagle and Agrusa headed the Cosby legal team that defended him at his June trial on three charges of aggravated indecent sexual assault against a woman who accused him of drugging and molesting her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He denies wrongdoing, says their encounter was consensual. 

After six days of trial testimony and five days of deliberations, the jury deadlocked, unable to agree on a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. Kevin Steele, district attorney of Montgomery County, Pa., said he would retry Cosby and Judge Steven O’Neill set the new trial date for Nov. 6.

Steele objects to Cosby’s desire for a delay in the pre-trial hearing and asked O’Neill to deny it, according to documents in the case. Steele said Cosby has already missed two dates to sign up new lawyers and another postponement would further delay “the timely administration of justice in this matter.”