January 15, 2021

5 Key Takeaways From Week 1 Of The Bill Cosby Trial

The trial of legendary comedian and accused sexual assaulter Bill Cosby completed its first week on Friday in a courthouse outside of Philadelphia with the prosecution resting its case.

The trial may wrap up next week based on the two-week estimate Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill made during pretrial preparations

Over two days this week, the jury heard testimony from Andrea Constand, the prosecution’s star witness. She’s a former Temple University employee who for the first time publicly described the night in 2004 in which she says Cosby drugged and groped her in his home. That followed tearful testimony from a woman who worked for Cosby’s agent in the 1990s and who said the actor assaulted her in his Beverly Hills hotel after giving her a pill.

The defense sought to undermine the credibility of the accusers by pointing to inconsistencies in their previous statements about their encounters with Cosby. On Monday, Cosby’s lawyers may begin calling witnesses for his defense, but at this point there’s been little indication of who might be summoned.

Cosby, 79, has been accused of sexual misdeeds by 60 women, but he’s been charged only with three counts of aggravated indecent assault for what happened on the disputed night with Constand. Cosby, who has pleaded not guilty, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Here are some of the pivotal developments in the case and notable moments outside of court from the first week.

Constand testifies about alleged assault

“I wanted him to stop,” said Constand, describing her inability to repel Cosby as he groped her while she was at his home. Before the assault, Cosby had given her three pills that he said were herbal and would help her relax, according to Constand. “In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move and my legs to move, but I was frozen.”

Constand had reported Cosby to the police in 2005 and later sued him, but the 44-year-old had never spoken in public before. The credibility of her testimony could prove decisive when the jury eventually deliberates the case.

In her recollection, Cosby was a mentor who offered her career advice. They met through their connections to Temple University, where he was a major booster and trustee and she was director of operations for the women’s basketball team.

Unlike witness Kathy Johnson, who sobbed when questioned aggressively by Cosby’s defense about discrepancies over details in her statements, Constand remained calm. Constand acknowledged that she’d made some mistakes in her statements to authorities before, such as initially saying Cosby assaulted her following a group dinner in March 2004 rather than during a private evening in January 2004. She was also confronted with records showing that she called Cosby twice on Valentine’s Day, weeks after the alleged assault, and gave him a gift showing her face superimposed on a drawing of Fat Albert, an animated character Cosby voiced on his “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” TV series.

In response, Constand said she felt compelled to remain on good terms with Cosby because she worried it could affect her job at Temple. She and later her mother confronted Cosby over what type of pills he’d given her, but Cosby was evasive, she testified.

Constand also denied accusations from the defense that she and Cosby had a sustained romantic relationship. She admitted only that she’d rebuffed Cosby’s unwanted advances previously.

“He was a Temple friend,” Constand said. “Somebody I trusted. A mentor. And somewhat of an older figure to me.”

Jurors hear Cosby’s words

Cosby has said he doesn’t plan to testify in his defense, though reports Friday said he and his defense team are considering it.

What jurors heard this week were transcripts from when Cosby was questioned in 2005 and 2006 during Constand’s civil suit against him. Cosby’s statements were read aloud by a police officer on Thursday and Friday.

In the depositions, Cosby admitted giving Quaaludes to women but said he’d never secretly given them the powerful sedative before sex. He told authorities that he gave Benadryl to Constand. He said he was evasive when asked about the pills by Constand’s mother because he feared that the call was being recorded, which it was.

Cosby acknowledged offering to pay for Constand’s graduate school after she and her mother confronted him, according to the transcript. He said he didn’t want them to think he was a “dirty old man.” However, he insisted that he and Constand had a consensual sexual relationship.

“But my apology was, my God, I’m in trouble with these people because this is an old man and their young daughter,” Cosby said at the deposition.

Cosby’s attorneys had fought to keep the depositions from being used in court. They claim that he only participated in the questioning because a previous Montgomery County district attorney had offered him immunity from a criminal case.

A ‘strikingly similar’ assault

In her opening statements, prosecutor Kristen Feden said that the trial was all about “trust, betrayal and the ability to consent.” She tried immediately to show that Cosby was a predator by calling Kelly Johnson, a former assistant to his agent, as the first witness. Feden said she’d describe a “strikingly similar” incident as Constand’s.

Johnson testified that she felt obligated by the William Morris Agency, where she worked, to accept Cosby’s invitation to his Los Angeles bungalow in 1996 to discuss television production. When she arrived, Cosby forced her to swallow a pill, she testified. She said through tears that she awoke half-naked in bed and that Cosby had made grunting noises behind her and forced her to gratify him with her hand.

She claimed that she overheard Cosby subsequently complaining about her on a phone call with her boss. Rather than challenge Cosby directly, Johnson said she applied for worker’s compensation, based on an attorney’s advice.

Cosby’s attorney Brian McMonagle subjected her to a barrage of questions about supposed discrepancies between her testimony about the worker’s comp case and her attorney’s notes about the matter from the late 1990s. McMonagle also contended that Johnson had been coached on what to say by her attorney, Gloria Allred, who represents dozens of Cosby accusers, and that she and Cosby had actually had an affair — accusations that Johnson denied.

“Sexual assault is a terrible crime,” McMonagle said in his opening statement. “The only thing that is worse than that is the false accusation of sexual assault.”

Johnson is the only other Cosby accuser O’Neill will permit the seven men and five women on the jury to hear. The prosecution had wanted to call as many as 13 women to testify to establish a pattern of abuse.

Celebrity entourage

Much attention has been focused on who shows up to support Cosby each day. So far, his wife, Camille Cosby, hasn’t appeared, but minor celebrities who’ve worked with Cosby have taken spots in his corner. Keshia Knight Pulliam, the actress who played daughter Rudy on “The Cosby Show,” walked by his side on Monday. He arrived with Sheila Frazier, a costar in his 1978 film “California Suite,” on day three.

Allred, the high-powered attorney who represents other Cosby accusers, was removed from the gallery because her cellphone wasn’t turned off. Two other Cosby accusers, former Playboy Playmate Victoria Valentino and model Therese Serignese, have attended the trial as well.

Cosby’s antics

At several times before and after court sessions, Cosby called attention to himself to the delight of some and consternation of others.

One incident occurred in a court hallway after Constand finished her testimony Wednesday. An officer had ordered someone to put away a cellphone when Cosby acted as if he were afraid, aimed his walking cane as if it were a weapon and saying, “What’d you say?” according to reporters.

Bill Cosby goofing around in hallway minutes after Andrea Constand finished was really something. Thrust cane in the air. Fake stagger. Wow.

— Manuel Roig-Franzia (@RoigFranzia) June 7, 2017

Cosby also tapped into his comedic repertoire on at least two other occasions. He left the courthouse Tuesday bellowing, “Hey, hey hey,” the catchphrase of his Fat Albert animated character. He repeated the line Friday afternoon after fans clamored for it, according to an NPR reporter.

In court, he’s been seen laughing and smiling. During Constand’s testimony, however, he avoided looking at her, frowned and shook his head, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.

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