Bill Cosby will be in Pittsburgh today for jury selection in his sexual assault trial. The 79-year-old entertainer will arrive in a city divided over how he should be received, Philly.com reports. Summonses have gone out to nearly 3,000 potential jurors. The trial itself is scheduled to begin June 5 in Norristown across the state near Philadelphia. It promises to be the most closely watched legal spectacle since O.J. Simpson’s 1995 prosecution. It will be the first public vetting of allegations that mirror claims by dozens of women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault dating back decades.
Cosby supporters abound in Pittsburgh, a city of 300,000, but an eleventh-hour push to rehabilitate his public image through nationally broadcast radio interviews and statements claiming racism at the heart of the case against him has rubbed some the wrong way. “He should not be pimping the civil rights movement for his cause,” said Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project in Pittsburgh. State court administrators chose Pittsburgh for jury selection out of concern that overwhelming pretrial publicity may have tainted the jury pool in Norristown. It seems unfathomable that any potential jurors won’t have heard of Cosby’s legal travails, but his defense team hopes to find 12 men and women and six alternates who remain open-minded about allegations from Andrea Constand, who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his mansion in 2004. In seeking to move the jury selection, Cosby’s lawyers sought a large urban center with more “diverse and opposing viewpoints.”