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In closing, defense calls Bill Cosby accuser ‘pathological liar’

NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 24: Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial April 24, 2018 at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. A former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Jessica Griffin-Pool/Getty Images)

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s lawyers urged a jury Tuesday to acquit the 80-year-old comedian of sexual assault charges they said were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence,” arguing he was falsely accused by a “pathological liar” scheming for a big payday.

The first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era was nearly in the hands of a jury after the defense declared that Cosby himself was the victim of an elaborate frame-up.

Lawyers Tom Mesereau and Kathleen Bliss said in their closing argument that chief accuser Andrea Constand consented to a sexual encounter at Cosby’s home in suburban Philadelphia, then leveled false accusations against the “Cosby Show” star so she could sue him and extract a big settlement.

“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau said. “You are.”

Prosecutors were to deliver their closing argument next. The jury was expected to get the case later in the day.

The former TV star was accompanied Tuesday for the first time in the trial by his wife of 54 years, who sat in the gallery as his lawyers pleaded with the jury to clear him. Camille Cosby had been absent from the courtroom as the prosecution built its case that Cosby maintained a sordid double life that involved preying on women sexually.

Constand, 45, alleges Cosby knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her in January 2004. Her account was bolstered by the testimony of five other women who took the stand and said Cosby had drugged and assaulted them, too — including one woman who asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”

Cosby has said he gave Constand 1½ tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax before what he called a consensual encounter. And the defense ripped into the other women, saying they were motivated by the prospect of money and fame to come forward in recent years with fabricated accounts.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison.

The jury at Cosby’s first trial weighed the evidence for more than 52 hours over six days last year without reaching a verdict.

This time, his defense team mounted a far more aggressive effort to stoke doubts about Constand’s credibility and raise questions about whether Cosby’s arrest was even legal.

Their star witness was Marguerite Jackson, a former Temple University colleague of Constand’s who testified that Constand spoke of framing a high-profile person for the purpose of filing a lawsuit. Constand received a settlement of nearly $3.4 million from Cosby over a decade ago.

“Are you going to believe a mature, dignified woman who takes the stand and gives you specific details that do not change,” defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss told the jury Tuesday, referring to Jackson, “or someone who gives you inconsistent statements, one after the other, after the other?”

In a two-hour, tag-team closing argument, Mesereau and Bliss highlighted more than a dozen inconsistencies in what Constand has said over the years. Mesereau, best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child-molestation case, showed jurors a list of what he said were Constand’s “biggest lies” and displayed excerpts from her police statements and testimony to help back up his claims.

He also painstakingly reviewed phone and travel records for Cosby and Constand, as well as a schedule for the Temple women’s basketball team where she worked, saying they are proof the alleged assault couldn’t have happened when she says it did. Prosecutors have noted that Cosby’s travel records have large gaps in time.

The date of Cosby’s encounter with Constand is important because of when he was charged. Prosecutors reopened the case in 2015, and he was charged late that year — just before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire.

Bliss argued that Cosby, once revered as America’s Dad, was an innocent man caught up in the “emotion and anger” of the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct.

“When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing, which is why each single case much be examined on its merits,” Bliss told jurors.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Constand has done so.