Cost of Bill Cosby trial in Montgomery County climbs to more than $200K

Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown for his preliminary hearing on sexual assault May 24, 2016.
Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown for his preliminary hearing on sexual assault May 24, 2016. Digital First Media file photo

NORRISTOWN >> Comedian Bill Cosby’s sex assault trial, which ended in a mistrial last month, cost Montgomery County taxpayers more than $200,000, the bulk of which went toward juror expenses and overtime for court personnel.

County officials completed their calculation of the Cosby trial expenses on Thursday, releasing figures that indicated the cost of the trial reached $219,100. The 11-day trial that began June 5 was the highest-profile case to ever play out in a county courtroom, attracted worldwide attention and was expected to cost more than other trials.

The expenses included $129,000 in personnel overtime costs, specifically, $98,600 for sheriff’s deputies; $14,400 for detectives; $14,100 for court staff; and $1,900 for security staff, according to county officials. Deputies manned the courtroom and guarded jurors round-the-clock at the hotel at which they were sequestered for the duration of the trial.

The jury of seven men and five women and six alternates was selected in Allegheny County due to pretrial publicity in the case. Those jurors were bused to Montgomery County and housed at an area hotel and provided meals at the county’s expense throughout the trial.

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The juror expenses reached $74,000, county officials said, including $46,000 for accommodations and $14,000 for meals. The cost to transport the jurors was $7,300 and the selection process cost the county $6,700.

Court expenses reached $16,100, primarily to provide audio and video capabilities in Courtroom C, the overflow courtroom where attendees could view a livestream of the trial, taking place in Courtroom A, on a large projection screen.

The county, in its 2017 budget, allocated funding for overtime and trials, according to county officials. At this time, officials said, it has not been determined the impact the expenses associated with the Cosby trial will have on the 2017 budget.

The calculation of the expenses required county officials to organize invoices from the various departments involved and to work with payroll staff.

The figures did not appear to include the $6,569 in witness fees that are listed in the official court docket for the Cosby case.

Commissioner Chairwoman Valerie A. Arkoosh extended her gratitude for the hard work and professionalism that county employees showed throughout the trial.

“The difficult work and extra attention the case of the Commonwealth vs. William Cosby required was met with planning, preparation and problem solving from Montgomery County employees across a number of departments,” Arkoosh said.

On June 17, Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial at the Cosby trial after jurors told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked on all charges after deliberating more than 52 hours over six days.

Cosby, who turned 80 on July 12, is charged with three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with allegations he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand, the former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University, at his Cheltenham mansion in mid-January 2004.

When the mistrial was announced District Attorney Kevin R. Steele immediately informed the judge he would retry Cosby. That retrial is currently slated to begin Nov. 6.

On Thursday, Steele reiterated a statement he made in the past, “You can’t put a price on justice.”

“Costs of criminal investigations and prosecution vary, but paramount in our decision-making is working to obtain justice and maintain public safety,” Steele said in a prepared statement. “With that flows our obligation to see cases to the end on behalf of victims of crime and the community.

“Justice is never served by treating a wealthy defendant any differently than an indigent defendant, in any case,” Steele added. “In all matters, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is committed to responsibly and ethically administering its work on behalf of our citizens.”

Steele previously said Constand “has shown such courage through this” and is prepared to move forward with a retrial.

“We are always budget-conscious, but we are also cognizant that our decisions must be based upon the facts and evidence. We also must follow the trail wherever it leads us and we must overcome hurdles to obtaining justice,” said Steele.