Bill Cosby’s trial pushes to its finale after a compelling 2 weeks
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — After two weeks of testimony, Bill Cosby’s fate will soon be in the hands of jurors. Again.
Opening statements in Cosby’s retrial began on April 9 and testimony could wrap up as soon as Monday. Last year, the first trial against Cosby ended in a mistrial when jurors could not come to a unanimous verdict on any of the three charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On the whole, the retrial has featured many of the same aspects of that case. But the few differences, including the aggressive attacks on the key witness, the #MeToo movement and the five prior accusers, have made for remarkably different courtroom proceedings.
Here’s a look at what’s happened in the two weeks of the retrial, and what’s ahead in the trial’s final days.
Defense paints Constand as a ‘con artist’
The core of the case against Cosby comes from Andrea Constand, who says Cosby drugged her and then assaulted her at his home in January 2004. Constand worked for the Temple University women’s basketball team at the time, and Cosby, a Temple trustee, mentored her and then betrayed that trust, she testified.
With no forensic evidence of the alleged incident, her testimony and apparent trustworthiness is crucial to the charges against Cosby. He has pleaded not guilty.
Because of that, Cosby’s defense attorneys have taken an aggressive stance toward Constand and attacked her in harsh terms. In opening statements, attorney Tom Mesereau called her a “con artist” and a “so-called victim” who invented a story of assault to cash in and solve her own financial problems.
“You’re going to be saying to yourself, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?’ and you already know. Money, money and lots more money,” Mesereau said in opening statements. “She was madly in love with his fame and money.”
Prosecutors reveal a prior settlement
Prosecutors revealed for the first time that Cosby paid Constand $3.38 million as part of a civil settlement in 2006. As part of the settlement, Cosby did not admit to legal wrongdoing.
Constand first reported the alleged assault to police in 2005, but no charges were filed at the time. She then filed a civil lawsuit against him, and as part of that case, he was deposed and admitted that he got prescription sedatives to give to women he wanted to have sex with.
Defense attorneys have argued that the sizable settlement proved that Constand was using Cosby to profit, and not for any principles.
“This was nothing about principle, this was about money,” he said. “The only principle was money, money, money, money.”
But prosecutors argued that Constand did not have any outstanding litigation against Cosby and is in court on her own volition.
“Ms. Constand why are you here?” prosecutor Kristen Feden asked her.
“For justice,” Constand replied.
#MeToo enters the courtroom
In this retrial, prosecutors were allowed to seek testimony from five women who said Cosby had given them drugs or wine and then sexually assaulted them. These “prior bad acts” witnesses, prosecutors argued, show that Cosby’s actions toward Constand in 2004 were part of a consistent pattern and were not a one-time mistake.
The most prominent of these witnesses was Janice Dickinson, the supermodel, reality TV star and author who testified that Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1982 in Lake Tahoe, a resort area on the California-Nevada border.
Like Constand, she thought Cosby wanted to mentor her. Like Constand, she was offered a blue pill. And like Constand, she then became incapacitated and was sexually assaulted, she testified.
“I couldn’t move, I felt like I was rendered motionless,” Dickinson testified.
Mesereau challenged Dickinson to explain why this incident wasn’t in her memoir, in which she describes the Lake Tahoe visit very differently.
“I wasn’t under oath when I wrote that book,” she testified.
“So you lied to get a paycheck?” Mesereau asked.
“Don’t call me a liar,” Dickinson said.
Prosecutors later called publisher Judith Regan, who worked with Dickinson on the book. Regan testified that Dickinson told her she was raped by Cosby, but she decided not to publish that accusation because of legal concerns.
In addition, Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker-Kinney and Lise-Lotte Lublin each testified last week that Cosby incapacitated them with drugs or wine and then assaulted them in separate incidents decades ago.
Former Temple colleague undermines Constand
In the previous trial, Cosby’s defense rested its case after only calling up one repeat witness. This time, though, Cosby’s defense has called several witnesses — none more important than one of Constand’s former colleagues at Temple.
Marguerite Jackson, who worked at Temple with Constand, testified she shared a room with Constand during a basketball trip to Rhode Island in February 2004. While watching a news report about a celebrity accused of drugging and assaulting someone, Constand said “Something similar happened to me,” according to Jackson.
“I was like, ‘Really, who? When?'” Jackson recounted. “She said ‘she wasn’t going to say,’ and I said, ‘Did you report it?'”
Constand said she did not report the claim “because I couldn’t prove it,” according to Jackson.
Jackson again asked her if it was true, and Constand said it was not but she could say it was, according to Jackson’s testimony.
“I could file a civil suit, get that money, quit my job, go back to school, and start a business,” Constand said, according to Jackson.
The testimony went to the heart of the defense’s argument about Constand’s financial motives.
Prosecutor M. Stewart Ryan questioned Jackson on inconsistencies and presented her with expense reports that suggest she may not have traveled with the team in the year she says those conversations took place.
Shenanigans unfold outside the courthouse
The inside of the Montgomery County courthouse has been the scene of forceful arguments, emotional testimony and intriguing legal debates.
The outside of the courthouse, though, has been the scene of an odd sideshow.
On the first day of the trial, a topless woman with the words “Cosby rapist” and women’s names written on her body jumped a barricade near Cosby and began chanting. She was tackled by police and detained.
The protester, Nicolle Rochelle, was a 39-year-old from New Jersey who had appeared in four episodes of “The Cosby Show” from 1990-1992. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
Days later, on April 12, Cosby’s spokespeople Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson got into an argument with attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several Cosby accusers, on the courthouse steps.
With cameras surrounding them, Wyatt asked Allred about her December 2014 call for Cosby to either meet his accusers in court or set aside $100 million to settle their claims.
“You need to listen and don’t interrupt,” she said.
“I’m not your child,” Wyatt responded.
Days afterward, Montgomery County issued a new decorum order that banned news conferences from the steps leading up to the courthouse, the ramp leading to the courthouse, or any entrance door to the courthouse.
The prosecution has rested its case, and Cosby’s defense team appears to have only a few other witnesses. Closing statements could come as soon as Monday.
At that point, each side will make their closing arguments. Then the judge will issue instructions to the sequestered jury, and they’ll begin deliberating on a verdict for Cosby.