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NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors are trying Bill Cosby for an alleged 2004 sexual assault only so that a “bandwagon” of women can pursue old, unsubstantiated claims that the 79-year-old comedian drugged and assaulted them, a defense lawyer said in court Wednesday.

Lawyer Brian McMonagle asked a judge to prevent prosecutors from calling 13 of Cosby’s other accusers as witnesses at next year’s trial, saying uncertainty about where and when some of the sexual encounters took place made them impossible to defend against.

The women went public at the urging of “clever, cunning lawyers who had the agenda of bringing down an American icon,” he told Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill, who must determine whether some or all of the accusers will be permitted to take the witness stand.

Prosecutors are trying to show Cosby already had a long history of drugging and molesting women by the time of his 2004 encounter with Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home, the subject of the sexual assault case against him.

McMonagle said prosecutors charged Cosby with attacking Constand just as the statute of limitations was about to expire as a way of digging deep into his past and dredging up ancient allegations.

“This case has nothing to do with Andrea Constand,” McMonagle argued. “This case was a way to try to vindicate what is a bandaged, bandwagon of claims that have been put together in Pandora’s box.”

District Attorney Kevin Steele argued earlier Wednesday that the women should be allowed to testify because their stories are so similar they show the “handiwork of the same perpetrator.”

Cosby befriended women who saw him as a mentor, knocked them out with pills and drinks and molested them, he said.

“This is a lifetime of sexual assault on young women,” Steele told the judge.

The case began a decade ago when Constand, a Temple University employee, filed a police complaint against Cosby, her friend and mentor, over an encounter at his home. A prosecutor at the time declined to file charges.

Authorities reopened the case last year after scores of women raised similar accusations and after Cosby’s damaging deposition testimony from Constand’s lawsuit became public. The trial judge last week said the deposition was fair game at trial, arming prosecutors with Cosby’s testimony about his affairs with young women, his use of quaaludes as a seduction tool and his version of the sexual encounter with Constand.

The judge must walk a fine line in weighing the accusers’ testimony, given a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that threw out a Roman Catholic Church official’s child-endangerment conviction because the Philadelphia trial judge let too many priest abuse victims testify about the alleged church cover-up.

The defense has questioned the women’s motivation, noting many are clients of celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who has suggested Cosby should put up a $100 million settlement fund for potential sexual assault and defamation claims.

Allred argues that her clients have a duty to testify if the court wants to hear from them. She called the defense’s dismissal of their accounts “out of context or just plain wrong.”

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