Late in life, sex assault trial caps Bill Cosby’s life and legacy
Bill Cosby doesn’t plan to testify when he goes on trial Monday on sexual assault charges, but the rambling, remarkable testimony he gave in the accuser’s lawsuit could still prove pivotal.
The deposition from a decade-old sexual battery lawsuit, unsealed by a judge in 2015, showed the once-beloved comedian’s dark side.
Cosby, a champion of family life after a 50-year marriage and five children, detailed his practice of inviting young actresses, models, flight attendants and waitresses to meetings that often featured pills and alcohol — and turned sexual. He called some of them mere “liaisons.”
But Andrea Constand, he said, was different. Cosby was a mentor and friend to the former Temple University basketball team staffer. She will take the stand this week and tell her story in public for the first time.
Judge Steven O’Neill hopes to keep the media frenzy from dominating the case as it did at O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. Like the Simpson case, the Cosby jury will be sequestered. On the other hand, cameras aren’t allowed in Pennsylvania courtrooms, as they were in the Simpson trial. But scores of photographers will be lined up outside the courthouse.
“We’ve had an O.J. hangover for many years,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “What you worry about as the judge is that the lawyers don’t showboat, the evidence gets presented fairly, and that you have a jury that does its job and is not being thrown into the whole milieu of the trial outside the courtroom.”
Constand lodged a formal police complaint and then sued Cosby in 2005 over the night a year earlier, when, she says, he drugged and molested her at his estate near Philadelphia. Cosby had beaten back rumours about his conduct before, at least once by giving an exclusive interview to a tabloid to squelch a woman’s story.
Cosby and his agents, as they had with other women, offered Constand money for school when her mother, Gianna, called to confront him in January 2006.
“She said your apology is enough,” Cosby said in the deposition . “There’s nothing you can do.”
Gianna Constand is also expected to testify, to describe changes she saw in her daughter that year and the phone call with Cosby they taped after going to police near Toronto, where they live.
The complaint was referred to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where the district attorney found the case too weak to prosecute.
Constand instead sued Cosby for sexual battery.
Thirteen women signed on to support her lawsuit, saying Cosby had also molested them. But Cosby avoided a trial by negotiating a confidential settlement with Constand in 2006.
The issue died down until 2014, when comedian Hannibal Burress called Cosby out as a rapist, leading dozens of new accusers to come forward. Months later, a federal judge granted an Associated Press motion to unseal parts of his deposition.
In one of the more explosive revelations, Cosby said he had gotten quaalude pills in the 1970s to give women before sex. The news put a halt to his planned TV comeback and led networks to stop airing Cosby reruns.
Many of the 60 or so accusers were aspiring performers when they met Cosby. Others simply enjoyed the brush with fame.
“I was starstruck,” Donna Motsinger, 75, one of the “Jane Doe” accusers in Constand’s lawsuit,said in an interview last week. “Somebody really famous thought I was pretty and cool, and I went with that.”
She was a single mother working at the Trident Restaurant, a celebrity hangout and one-time jazz club, in Sausalito, California, when she met Cosby. She said he invited her to a show in the early 1970s, gave her wine in the limousine and later what she thought was an aspirin, and then sexually assaulted her when she was incapacitated.
Cosby, in the deposition, said he didn’t remember her.
“I met a lot of waitresses at the Trident,” he said.
Cosby’s lawyers have spent the past 18 months trying to have the criminal case thrown out. They say Cosby testified only after being promised he could never be charged. And they argue the delayed prosecution makes the case impossible to defend, given that witnesses have died, memories have faded and the 79-year-old Cosby, they say, is blind.
Lead defence lawyer Brian McMonagle hopes to call a memory expert to challenge accusations he calls “nothing more than vague recollections.”
District Attorney Kevin Steele will be allowed to call one other accuser to suggest Cosby’s conduct with Constand was part of a “signature” crime pattern. She worked for Cosby’s agent at the William Morris Agency and says Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996 at a Los Angeles hotel.
Cosby and his family, on the eve of trial, have suggested the charges are fueled by racism. Some of his accusers, including the former William Morris employee, are black.