US Judge Begins Cosby’s Trial
TRIAL day has come for Bill Cosby as a Pennsylvania jury began deliberations Wednesday in his sexual assault retrial, tasked with deciding whether the disgraced megastar drugged and molested a young woman at his home 14 years ago.
The frail 80-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, then a Temple University employee, in 2004.
Judge Steven O’Neill, whom the defense initially tried to get kicked off the case, spent more than an hour delivering painstaking instructions to the jury as a somber Cosby listened intently.
The panel of seven men and five women then retired at 11:08 am (1508 GMT) and the verdict watch got underway at the Montgomery County court house in Norristown, a depressed suburb of Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, the court heard two hours of closing statements from the defense portraying the actor as a misguided married man hoodwinked into a $3.38 million settlement by a con artist and pathological liar.
The prosecution delivered three hours of summations, painting Cosby as the real “con” man who exploited his fame as “America’s Dad” to betray women’s trust by drugging and sexually assaulting them.
The case has forever tarnished the legacy of the actor once adored by millions for his role as lovable father and obstetrician Cliff Huxtable on the 1984-92 hit television series “The Cosby Show.”
The jury has heard 12 days of testimony and from around two dozen witnesses in what is the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era that has seen a litany of powerful men lose their jobs over accusations.
Cosby declined to testify, as was the case during his first trial, which ended in a hung jury in June with the sequestered panel hopelessly deadlocked after six days of testimony and 52 hours of deliberations.
Any verdict must be unanimous and this time the jury has much more testimony to consider.
The once pioneering African American actor claims he gave Constand, who is now a massage therapist in Toronto, an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve stress and that relations were consensual.
– ‘Inability to consent’ –
Constand, who at the time was director of operations for women’s basketball at Temple, says Cosby gave her three blue pills, saying they would help her relax, but she passed out instead.
She woke up to find him penetrating her vagina with his fingers and making her masturbate his penis, she says.
“This case is about trust, betrayal and the inability to consent,” prosecutor Kristen Feden told jurors on Tuesday.
“I’m confident that you will come back and tell that man that what he did to Andrea Constand that night is against the law.”
Cosby’s high-flying defense team urged the jury to acquit their client on all counts and save a “distinguished” elderly man from “absolute ruin.”
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury, you are,” said defense attorney Tom Mesereau.
The defense presented phone and travel records to suggest that Cosby was not in Philadelphia to carry out the alleged assault in January 2004, and a former Temple University colleague who claimed that Constand spoke of wanting to set up a celebrity for cash.
The prosecution brought five other accusers to testify that Cosby was a serial predator who preyed on them as well, first winning their trust then deliberately drugging them to make them incapable of resisting.
Prosecutors initially declined to press charges and Constand received $3.38 million in a civil settlement from Cosby in 2006.
The district attorney reopened the case in 2015, arguing new evidence had come to light, while an avalanche of women came forward publicly to accuse Cosby of around 40 years of assault.
Around 60 women have accused the Emmy winner of being a serial predator, but Constand’s is the only case that can be criminally prosecuted as statues of limitation have expired elsewhere.