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Sexual harassment and assault

Andrea Constand testifies ‘for justice’ against Bill Cosby as his lawyers emphasise the US$3.3m payout she already received

The details of Constand’s settlement, which were confidential until this week, are central to Cosby’s defence strategy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 4:07am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 5:51am

Andrea Constand had barely settled into the witness stand Friday morning in suburban Philadelphia when she was pressed to address one of the defining issues of Bill Cosby’s retrial: a prosecutor asked Constand how much money she got from Cosby to settle her lawsuit against him.

“Three million, three hundred and eighty thousand dollars,” Constand calmly told the jury.

The details of that settlement – which were confidential until this week – are central to Cosby’s lawyers’ strategy of portraying Constand, whose claims the actor and comedian drugged and sexually assaulted led to his criminal charges, as a greedy liar who simply wanted his money.

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Opening what could be the most critical phase of the trial, prosecutors attempted Friday to get out in front of those attacks.

“Ms. Constand, why are you here?” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden asked her.

“For justice,” Constand replied.

Constand, a former basketball player, testified with the same calm demeanour she had displayed during two days on the witness stand before the mistrial last June. This time, jurors heard from Constand against the backdrop of accounts from five other women who testified that Cosby also drugged and sexually assaulted them.

Wearing a white blazer, orange shirt and grey pants, Constand spread a blanket over her lap on the witness stand and answered questions in an even tone.

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When asked to identify Cosby as her alleged assailant, she paused and stared at him. Cosby, 80, leaned back in his chair and showed no reaction.

Her testimony echoed the account she told last year: Constand described meeting Cosby in 2002 through Temple women’s basketball, where she worked as the director of operations, and getting to know him as he offered career advice and encouraged her to consider a career in sports broadcasting.

Though hesitant at times – asking the prosecutor to clarify questions or pausing before answering – she clearly described the 2004 night at his Cheltenham home when she said Cosby gave her three pills that he called “your friends” and said they would help her relax. He helped her to a couch after she told him she felt weak and was seeing double vision.

She said she woke up to Cosby violating her.

“My vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully and I felt my breasts being touched,” she said. “I wanted it to stop; I couldn’t say a thing. I was trying to get my hands to move, my legs to move, and the message just wasn’t getting there.”

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The next morning, Constand testified, she woke up and Cosby gave her a muffin and tea before she left, but they did not speak.

“I knew what he had done to me but it didn’t actually sink in until I was driving home,” she told jurors. “And driving home I remember thinking, ‘What just happened? And why did he do this to me?’”

Constand said she continued to speak with Cosby after that night because he called her about Temple basketball.

A couple months later, she said, she confronted him about the pills after attending a group dinner with him in Philadelphia.

“It was a very, very short visit and I wanted to get some information, which he would not volunteer to me,” she said. “He was very evasive with me; he said to me, ‘I thought you had an orgasm.’ I said I did not. And he did not answer my questions and so I lost my courage and I left.”

Prosecutors also sought to deflate another prong in the defence strategy, asking Constand about her former Temple colleague Marguerite Jackson. 

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Now a defence witness, Jackson is expected to testify that Constand once told her she intended to fabricate a claim of sexual assault against a celebrity to earn money.

Constand testified in June that she did not know Jackson. 

When asked on Friday, she said, “I recognise the name,” but said she does not remember sharing a hotel room with Jackson on basketball team trips, which is where Jackson says Constand discussed the extortion plan.

Judge Steven T. O’Neill has ruled that Jackson can testify, but said that ruling is subject to change, pending how other testimony goes at trial.