NORRISTOWN: A topless protester with “Women’s Lives Matter” written on her body jumped a barricade and got within a few feet of Bill Cosby on Monday as the comedian walked into a suburban Philadelphia courthouse for the start of his sexual assault retrial.
The unidentified woman ran in front of Cosby toward a bank of TV cameras but was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies and led away in handcuffs.
Cosby seemed startled by the commotion as a half-dozen protesters chanted at him.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt praised deputies for their quick action but urged court officials to increase security.
“It’s a different world. Things have changed,” Wyatt told The Associated Press, referring to recent mass shootings and other episodes. “You never know who’s going to want to make a name for themselves.”
The disruption came ahead of opening statements, which were delayed while the judge sorted through allegations raised late Friday that a juror told a woman during jury selection that he thought Cosby was guilty. Cosby’s lawyers want the juror removed from the case.
Prosecutors have lined 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: attacking Andrea Constand as a greedy liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.
“You’ve seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed,” said professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Cosby’s first trial last spring ended with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
The 80-year-old comedian, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
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.