Bill Cosby's lead defence lawyer quits ahead of re-trial

Bill Cosby shakes hands with his attorney Brian McMonagle as they leave Montgomery County Courthouse.
Bill Cosby shakes hands with his attorney Brian McMonagle as they leave Montgomery County Courthouse.PHOTO: REUTERS

New York (AFP) - The top Philadelphia criminal defence attorney who helped Bill Cosby secure a mistrial for sexual assault has quit ahead of the disgraced entertainer's scheduled re-trial.

Brian McMonagle, who proved his mettle with a tough-as-nails defence at one of America's biggest celebrity trials in years, has bowed out and replacements are being considered, a Cosby spokesman said on Tuesday.

"Attorney McMonagle is no longer representing Mr Cosby," Andrew Wyatt said, without elaborating on the reasons. Co-counsel Angela Agrusa, who is based in California, remains on the team.

"I will be naming our new legal counsel at the end of the month," Wyatt said.

Cosby, 80, is scheduled to go back on trial for allegedly drugging and molesting a former university basketball official at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

Judge Steven O'Neill was forced to declare a mistrial in June when a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault after more than 50 hours of deliberations in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

The deadlock was a victory of sorts for the pioneering black comedian, now frail and isolated, who risked spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning actor of being a sexual predator, alleging that he drugged and assaulted them over a span of 40 years across the United States.

But the trial was the only criminal case brought against Cosby as most of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute.