A judge dismissed the first-degree sex abuse case against Atilla Cosby, a transfer student slated to join the basketball team early next year, at a D.C. Superior Court preliminary hearing Friday.
The charge stemmed from accusations made to Metropolitan Police by a 46-year-old crack-cocaine user that Cosby sexually assaulted her in his Guthridge Hall room early May 15.
Judge Lee F. Satterfield ruled that the prosecution failed to meet the standard of probable cause in its case against Cosby; meaning the government failed to show that, more likely than not, Cosby committed the offense with which he was charged.
The government has not established that the defendant is more guilty than not, Satterfield said.
In the affadavit in support of warrant for Cosby’s arrest, the woman alleged that Cosby forced her to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint. She also alleged that Cosby sodomized her with a broomstick.
In a rare move for a preliminary hearing, Cosby took the stand and testified that he stopped his car on the corner of New Jersey and P streets because he saw a woman in need of assistance. Cosby said she came to his window and made a sexual proposition, which made him curious.
She said, `I’m gonna give you the best blow job you’ve ever had,’ Cosby said.
Cosby testified that he let the woman into his car and drove her to Guthridge Hall. Once in his room, Cosby said the woman sat on his couch, pulled down his pants and began performing oral sex on him. He said he noticed blood in her pelvic area and told her to stop because he was grossed out.
The woman went to Cosby’s bathroom and bloody tissues fell from her pants, according to Cosby’s testimony. Cosby said that when the woman did not pick up the tissues, he took a broomstick and pointed at the tissues. The woman asked Cosby for $10 or $15 and he gave her a role of quarters, then took them back, according to Cosby. Cosby testified that he asked the woman to leave and cover her head with her sweater as he took her out the basement exit of Guthridge.
University Police surveillance footage presented by the prosecution showed Cosby and the woman entering the lobby at 5:35 a.m. and leaving through the basement at 6:09 a.m.
The alleged victim did not show up for the preliminary hearing and could not be located by MPD following the initial charges.
Cosby’s attorney, Billy Martin, questioned the credibility of the woman making the accusations. Martin brought out the fact that the woman smoked crack-cocaine an hour before meeting Cosby. He also cited the woman’s two prostitution convictions from the 1981 and 1982 and showed that she had previously made unsubstantiated claims that she was the victim of sex abuse.
Deciding in favor of Cosby, Satterfield identified the dispute over the role of quarters found in Cosby’s room as a key determinant in his ruling. The prosecution’s witness, MPD Detective Dan Lewis, testified that the alleged victim said Cosby stole the quarters from her.
The defense responded by putting on the stand Geneza Couser, the mother of Cosby’s girlfriend. Couser, a 25-year veteran of MPD, testified that she gave Cosby the role of quarters May 15 so he could do laundry. In his closing statement, Satterfield said he thought Couser’s account was credible.
Though hearsay is admissible in preliminary hearings, Satterfield said he was troubled by the prosecution’s dependence in unsubstantiated evidence.
The court has received most of this evidence as hearsay, Satterfield said.
Satterfield also cited the prosecution’s lack of DNA evidence in its claim that there was blood on the handle of the broom. He said the defense’s argument that Cosby used the broom handle to point at bloody tissues was plausible.
Among the items seized by MPD from Cosby’s Guthridge Hall room was a gun lock. Upon cross-examination by the prosecution, Cosby said he never owned a gun.
Cosby exited the courtroom accompanied by GW assistant basketball coach Bonzie Colson, Couser, Martin and his girlfriend, who carried Cosby’s young child.
Right now I’m glad it’s over, Cosby said after exiting the courtroom. I just want to put all of this behind me.
Cosby’s attorney, Billy Martin, said he was pleased with the outcome of the hearing.
I’m not surprised, Martin said. The government had no evidence. I’m sorry Atilla exercised poor judgment in agreeing to let her perform oral sex on him.
Cosby may return to the GW basketball team. That decision will be made before December by Athletic Director Jack Kvancz and Head Coach Tom Penders, said Robert Chernak, vice president of Student Academic and Support Services. Kvanc and Penders were out of town and unavailable for comment.
The government may still seek an indictment against Cosby. In what is called a grand jury original, the prosecution can seek an indictment by presenting facts to a grand jury even if an individual has not been charged.
Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the government will continue investigating the incident. He said he does not know whether the government will seek a grand jury indictment.
In the District, upon being charged with a felony, the accused is afforded the opportunity to have a preliminary hearing within 20 days of arrest. A preliminary hearing is a judicial review of the facts in order to continue a case.
The prosecution’s burden of proof in this sort of hearing is lower than in a regular trial. Rather than the standard of guilt in trials – beyond a reasonable doubt – the government must show probable cause. To show probable cause the government must show that, more likely than not, the accused is guilty.
Jeanne Hauch, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, declined to comment.
Couser said Cosby, who lives at her Maryland home, would not comment further on the hearing.
-Russ Rizzo contributed to this report.