Jury deliberates in Bill Cosby sexual assault trial after hearings painted him as both a predator and a victim
Cosby’s lawyer dismissed accuser Andrea Constand as a ‘pathological liar’, while Constand’s called him a con-man and sexual predator
The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case began deliberating Wednesday in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, weighing charges that he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home 14 years ago.
The panel of seven men and five women got the case after receiving legal instructions from Judge Steven O’Neill, after hearing closing arguments on Tuesday that portrayed the comedian both as a calculating predator who is finally being brought to justice and the victim of a multimillion-dollar frame-up by a “pathological liar”.
Cosby gave a quick fist pump and sashayed toward well-wishers chanting, “We love Bill!” as he arrived at the Montgomery County Courthouse on a rainy Wednesday morning.
The prosecution and defense gave jurors plenty to consider after a two-week trial pitting Cosby, the 80-year-old comedian once revered as “America’s Dad”, against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University sports administrator who testified that he knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over. It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan told the jury.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that the charges were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence”.
At 6.35pm, the jury asked to rehear testimony from star defense witness Marguerite Jackson, a former Temple University colleague of Constand’s.
Jackson testified that Constand told her she could fabricate sexual assault allegations and “get that money” from a lawsuit, bolstering Cosby’s efforts to show Constand made up the allegations against him to extort a big civil settlement.
The trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, came 10 months after an earlier jury weighing sexual assault charges against Cosby ended in a deadlock following six days of deliberations.
This time, prosecutors had five other women testify that Cosby drugged and violated them. One accuser asked him through tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr Cosby?”
Cosby’s lawyers, who contend that the encounter with Constand was consensual, countered by calling to the stand a woman who said Constand spoke of framing a prominent person so that she could sue and extract a big settlement.
At Cosby’s more streamlined first trial, only one additional accuser testified. But neither were those jurors told the amount of Cosby’s 2006 civil settlement with Constand -- nearly US$3.4 million, which defence lawyer Tom Mesereau on Tuesday called “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time”.
“I have never seen or heard of a retrial that was as different as this was from the first trial,” said lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who has been following the retrial and is not associated with either side. “The prosecution now had multiple victims and the defence had the issue of money, which were powerful weapons for both sides.”
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison. His wife of 54 years, Camille, looked on from the gallery as his lawyers pleaded on Tuesday with the jury to clear him, the first time she had attended the retrial. She also sat in for the defence’s closing argument at his first trial.
Camille Cosby, 74, had stayed away as the prosecution built its case that her husband maintained a sordid double life, plying women with drugs and preying on them sexually.
Before the jury came in, she put her arm around Cosby, who is legally blind. They smiled and chatted, and he gave her a peck on the cheek. When it was the prosecution’s turn to argue, she left the courtroom, and Constand entered.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” said Mesereau, who won an acquittal for Michael Jackson in his 2005 child molestation case. “You are.”
Prosecutor Kristen Feden called Cosby the true con artist – wresting that label from Cosby’s lawyers, who had applied it to Constand throughout the trial.
“Yes, you did hear about a con,” Feden said, her voice rising as she moved toward Cosby and pointed at him. “The perpetrator of that con is this man, sitting right here.”
She warned that the man trusted for his role as genial, jumper-wearing Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show is “nothing like the image that he played on TV”.
The defence highlighted more than a dozen inconsistencies in what Constand has said over the years and painstakingly reviewed telephone and travel records, contending that they prove the alleged assault couldn’t have happened when she says it did. They also argued that he was charged after the 12-year statute of limitations for prosecuting him had run out.