Bill Cosby faces prison after a jury in Pennsylvania convicted him of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball administrator whom he was mentoring, at his home in suburban Philadelphia.
Constand was 30 at the time, and Cosby was in his 60s. The comedian had argued that their relationship was consensual.
The 7-man, 5-woman jury reached its verdict after hearing testimony from Constand, along with five other women who have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them, over the course of 12 days in Norristown, Pa. More than 60 women have accused the 80-year-old comedian of sexual assault or harassment, but only Constand’s case made it to trial. Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in December 2015 — just before a statute of limitations was set to expire.
When asked why she was taking the stand by the prosecution on April 13, Constand replied: “For justice.”
Constand had already testified against Cosby last summer. That trial resulted in a hung jury, and Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.
The retrial that began in early April was the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, and the courtroom saga played out in a setting a setting that bore witness to Cosby’s greatly diminished role in American society.
A year after his mistrial on the same charges, media and courthouse security far outnumbered spectators and demonstrators for his retrial. Cosby’s reputation had suffered for years — initially because of his scolding moralizing to African American youth in the 2000s, then due to the avalanche of sexual accusers that began in late 2014.
“After all is said and done, women were finally believed,” attorney Gloria Allred, famous for representing women in sexual assault cases, said outside the courthouse after the trial.
During 12 days of testimony and arguments, Cosby was often a silent figure. But the 80-year-old’s face often betrayed his emotions as he sat at the head of the defense table with a pencil-thin wooden cane by his side. On the final day before his case went to the jury, Cosby laughed and smirked at the defense table, then in an extraordinary moment of courtroom drama engaged in an uncomfortable stare-down with prosecutor Kristen Feden, who is less than half his age.
Cosby, who ditched his signature lumpy sweaters for business suits with matching pocket handkerchiefs, glared at the purple carpet with a deep frown as Constand testified about the night in 2004 when she says the comic legend offered her three round blue pills that he called “your friends,” ostensibly to help her relax. But when a Temple academic adviser testified that Constand had confided that she could extort a celebrity with a false story of sexual assault, Cosby was almost giddy, smiling broadly with his face turned to the packed courtroom audience and occasionally laughing with one hand cupped over his mouth.
The academic adviser’s testimony fit into a narrative laid out by the defense in which Constand was a “con artist” who was “madly in love with his fame and money.” But prosecutors said it was actually Cosby who staged a con by using his fatherly television image to trick Constand and other alleged victims to trust him so that he could drug them.
Prosecutors presented jurors with a dark image of Cosby, portraying him as a serial criminal. Six women — Constand and five “prior bad act witnesses”—testified in harrowing detail about the entertainer drugging them in incidents that stretched from the early 1980s until 2004.
All say they were summoned by Cosby, in one way or another, dazzled by his fame and trusting because of his family-man image.
Janice Dickinson, the former supermodel, testified about leaving a photo shoot in Bali because the famed comedian offered help with her singing career. Heidi Thomas, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Chelan Lasha told jurors how Cosby promised to mentor their acting careers, and put them at ease by speaking with their parents or grandparents.
Constand, the primary accuser, sought the comedian’s advice on entering sports broadcasting at a juncture in her life when she was considering leaving her job as operations director of the Temple University women’s basketball team.
But once they were alone with Cosby, the women all said he slipped them pills or drinks that left them in various states of unconsciousness. Dickinson said the pills he gave her for menstrual camps left her unable to move or “get the words out I wanted to say.” Constand said she was “frozen” and seeing double. Another witness, Janice Baker-Kinney, said she “face-planted” into a backgammon board after accepting two quaaludes from Cosby.
Afterward, the women — who had once admired Cosby — said they feared him.
But, in the safer confines of the courtroom here, the women were free to speak their minds.