Who Is Tom Mesereau? Bill Cosby Isn't The Lawyer's First High-Profile Client
Bill Cosby heads back to court this month for a retrial in his sexual assault case. After his first trial ended with a hung jury, the comedian hired a new lawyer to represent him the second time around. So, who is Tom Mesereau? The attorney has ample experience winning acquittals for defendants in high-profile sexual assault cases.
Cosby is standing trial for an allegation that he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in his Philadelphia home in 2004. He pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault charge and has repeatedly denied the allegation, as well as further accusations of sexual misconduct from more than 50 other women.
Mesereau has drawn parallels between Cosby's trial and previous trials he's worked on, including the case he's best known for: Michael Jackson's 2005 child sexual abuse case. Jackson was charged with several counts of child molestation and administering an intoxicating agent to a 13-year-old boy. Taking an abnormal route, the Los Angeles-based attorney called the Santa Barbara County district attorney to the witness stand in a pretrial hearing. Jackson ultimately was acquitted on all charges.
"The worldwide media had already condemned him and basically discarded him as trash," Mesereau said of Jackson's case in a 2016 interview with MSNBC. "I see something similar happening now [with Cosby.]"
Mesereau said in another 2016 interview with MSNBC that Jackson's own words from a documentary were used against him in the 2005 trial, just as Cosby's words from a 2005-2006 deposition he gave in a civil suit that Constand filed have been used against him in the criminal case. In that deposition, Cosby said he gave Quaaludes, a prescription sedative, to multiple women. In at least one instance, he said, he had sex with a woman after giving her the powerful drug. He said he only gave Constand Benadryl, however.
Mesereau describes himself on his website as "an unconventional, unpredictable trial lawyer." He adds: "Trials are high stakes encounters. Mesereau takes risks. Mesereau likes impossible odds. His results speak for themselves."
Even though jurors have yet to be selected for Cosby's new trial, Mesereau is already hard at work. He pushed for Judge Steven O'Neill to be removed from the case because he believed O'Neill's wife's work with sexual assault survivors could bias the judge's decisions. O'Neill allowed five additional Cosby accusers to testify in the retrial, which Mesereau argued was an example of his wife's advocacy work influencing his decision-making.
Mesereau also wants to bar the jury from hearing a phone call Constand made to her mom in 2005, which details the alleged assault she says happened the previous year. Cosby's attorney asserted in court documents filed Tuesday that the phone conversation is hearsay, the Associated Press reports.
Along with Cosby and Jackson, Mesereau has also represented professional boxer Mike Tyson, who was accused of rape in 2001 after serving time in prison for raping another woman. The 2001 investigation was eventually dropped.
Mesereau also does pro bono work through a free legal clinic that he established in Los Angeles. Judges, lawyers, law students, college students, and activists donate their time and provide counsel, his website says. He also accepts roughly one pro bono capital murder case per year in the south, including past high-profile cases in Alabama and Mississippi. In 2016, he represented a Birmingham, Alabama man accused of shooting his girlfriend's ex-husband. The defendant claimed self-defense and was ultimately acquitted by a jury.
The Cosby case has captured the media's attention from the very beginning — and the retrial will be no different. Mesereau told MSNBC in 2016 that he believes Cosby will be acquitted, and now he's officially on the comedian's legal team fighting for that very outcome.