Reporters Who Live-Tweet the Bill Cosby Trial Could Face Jailing

Bill Cosby 2-preliminary hearing-Montgomery County Courthouse on May 24, 2016-Getty-H 2016
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Montgomery County Judges Thomas DeRicci and Steven O'Neill have laid down some operating procedure for journalists covering the much anticipated sexual assault trial of Bill Cosby. When the approximately two-week-long proceeding begins June 5, don't expect to hear much, if anything, about what happened each day until breaks. That's because the Pennsylvania judges are barring all communications from electronic devices taken into the courthouse, and with seating at a premium, anyone who leaves won't be able to return.

A decorum order put out Thursday adds that any trial attendee who violates the order is subject to penalties for contempt of court, including fines or summary incarceration. According to a communications official at the court, there will be active monitoring of information being disseminated outside of the courthouse including on social media to ensure compliance.

The judges are allowing pool cameras for video footage and still photography, but before anyone gets too excited, the trial will hardly be televised. Instead, photographers can shoot the comings and goings of trial attendees, while the video is closed circuit and mainly for the benefit of those in an auxiliary room. In total, there will be 120 reporters allowed seating with half — the Associated Press, local reporters and some legal publications — given seating right in the main room.

The trial doesn't begin for another two weeks, but it will make waves of hype as soon as Monday when jury selection commences. The questions asked during the voir dire process for culling prospective jurors — many being bused from Pittsburgh — could tease some elements from the case and also present somewhat of a survey on familiarity with Bill Cosby's career and the allegations against him. It also will present a fascinating look at bias and impartiality over something that commands almost universal recognition. In advance of the trial, Cosby's lawyers have expressed their challenge as to "change the optics." 

With information being so tightly controlled, there will inevitably be floods of Cosby news whenever reporters get outside. If the O.J. Simpson trial a quarter-century ago became a near around-the-clock television spectacle, this one may be remembered for consistent but infrequent bursts of viral reports on social media upon the breaks in action.