Bill Cosby retrial jury to decide: Is he a serial rapist or victim of a con artist?
Accompanied for the first time by his wife of more than 50 years, Bill Cosby walked into a courthouse Tuesday morning ahead of closing arguments in his sexual assault retrial.
Camille Cosby had been absent from the courtroom as prosecutors called a series of women to the stand who testified her husband drugged and sexually assaulted them, but she was by his side Tuesday for the trial’s conclusion.
The jury that will start deliberating Cosby’s fate has heard the comedian described over the past two weeks both as a “serial rapist” and a con artist’s victim.
They have seen a half-dozen accusers testify that the man once revered as “America’s Dad” had a sordid secret life that involved preying on women for his own sexual gratification. And they have heard from a witness who says his chief complainant talked about framing a high-profile person to score a big payday.
Now, seven men and five women who have been kept in a suburban Philadelphia hotel, away from family, friends and daily routines, will get to have their say in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
“You now have all of the evidence,” Judge Steven O’Neill told them after Cosby’s lawyers rested on Monday without calling the 80-year-old comedian to the stand. “Try to relax, so that you’re on your game tomorrow.”
Jurors could be in for a marathon.
Before going off to deliberate, they will hear both sides rehash the case in lengthy closing arguments, and they will get O’Neill’s instructions in the law.
3 counts of indecent assault
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault — all stemming from Andrea Constand’s allegations that he knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
Each count carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
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 sexual encounter.
The jury in Cosby’s first trial weighed the evidence for more than 52 hours over six days without reaching a verdict.
This time, both sides have given the retrial jury much more to consider.
Prosecutors were able to call five additional accusers who testified that Cosby also drugged and violated them — including one woman who asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
Cosby’s new defence team, led by Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, countered with a far more robust effort at stoking doubts about Constand’s credibility and raising questions about whether Cosby’s arrest was even legal.
The defence’s star witness was a former colleague of Constand who says Constand spoke of leveling false sexual assault accusations against a high-profile person for the purpose of filing a civil suit. Constand got a civil settlement of nearly $3.4 million from Cosby.
Both juries also heard from Cosby himself — not on the witness stand, but via an explosive deposition he gave in 2005 and 2006 as part of Constand’s civil suit against him. In it, Cosby acknowledged he gave the sedative Quaaludes to women before sex in the 1970s.
Travel records under scrutiny
Cosby’s lawyers devoted the last two days of their case to travel records they say prove he could not have been at his suburban Philadelphia home in January 2004. They argue that any encounter there with Constand would have happened earlier, outside the statute of limitations.
Cosby’s private jet records and travel itineraries produced by Cosby’s lawyers do not show any flights in or out of the Philadelphia area in January 2004, but they have large gaps — a total of 17 days that month in which Cosby was not traveling, performing or taping TV appearances.
District Attorney Kevin Steele noted that the records do not account for other ways Cosby could have got to Philadelphia.
“You can’t tell us whether he got on a commercial flight,” Steele said, questioning a defence aviation expert. “You can’t tell us whether he got on a train. You can’t tell us whether he got in a car and drove to Philadelphia.”
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.