Montgomery County’s district attorney pledged to retry entertainment icon Bill Cosby for sexual assault after a mistrial was declared this morning because jurors were “hopelessly deadlocked” after 52 hours of deliberations over six days.
District Attorney Kevin Steele spoke of his plans to hold another trial during a news conference about an hour after jurors told Judge Steven O’Neill at 10:15 a.m. they could not come to unanimous agreement on any of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
It could not be learned how the jury was split in this trial, because their deliberations were confidential. And their names remain a secret, by court order. Efforts to locate the jurors after this morning’s proceedings were unsuccessful.
Steele said the state has up to one year to bring Cosby back to trial, but said his office would attempt “to push it along.” O’Neill said in court that he would reschedule the case in the next 120 days.
Cosby said nothing when the hung jury and mistrial was announced, He leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtful as he rested his chin on his can.
O’Neill praised jurors for their diligence and dedication and told attorneys on both sides: “”A mistrial is neither a vindication nor a victory. This was the justice system.”
The judge added: “This is simply a nullity, it is not a victory for either side.”
Outside court, Cosby was silent while his fans cheered, his publicist declared victory and a spokeswoman read a caustic statement by his wife Camille
Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle said he hoped for an acquittal but invoked the Rolling Stones when discussing the non-verdict. “You don’t always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need,” he said.
A conviction on the felony sex charges could send the 79-year-old Cosby to prison for the rest of his life, but the case has already helped demolish Cosby’s nice-guy image, cultivated during his eight-year run as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” the top-rated 1980s and ’90s sitcom.
Outside court, the district attorney praised the “courageous” Constand. “I can’t emphasize that enough,” Steele said. “She is a positive person” who buoyed the spirits of the prosecution team “while waiting for the jury to come back.”
Dolores Troiani, attorney for Constand, said her client would cooperate in second trial.
“She’s ready to go again. As I said, she’s a very spiritual woman,” Troiani said. “She thinks things happen for a purpose. And I think the purpose here is, as Mr. Steele said, it should encourage other women to come forward and have their day in court.”
Jurors had begun weighing evidence against Cosby on Monday afternoon following six days of testimony.
At issue was whether the comic and acting legend had drugged and molested then-Temple University women’s basketball official Andrea Constand in January 2004 at his Cheltenham Township mansion. Constand contended she was “paralyzed” and unable to consent after Cosby gave her what he said was an herbal remedy.
Cosby, a Philadelphia native and Temple alumnus and booster who was then on the university’s Board of Trustees, didn’t testify in the trial.
But in a 2005 deposition he gave in Constand’s civil lawsuit that the parties settled, Cosby had contended their sexual encounter was consensual and that three little blue he gave her that night were “three friends to help her relax.” He said the pills were Benadryl, an over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine that can cause drowsiness and dizziness.
Cosby had also spokenin the deposition about previously giving Quaaludes to women before sex. The powerful sedative which was banned in the United States in the 1980s. Cosby said he never took the drug himself with women because, “I get sleepy.”
Jurors pepped the judge with a dozen questions over the course of their deliberations, and had much of the testimony read back to them, including the words of Constand, who was on the stand for seven hours, and Cosby’s deposition.
Under Pennsylvania law, each count against Cosby carries up to 10 years in prison, but most legal experts said that if he was convicted the charges would merge during sentencing, as all three stemmed from the same incident.
But in the end, this jury could not render a verdict.
Trial capped years of sordid allegations
Cosby has been a national figure for more than a half-century and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
His fame, coupled with the approximately 60 sexual assault allegations that trailed him in recent years, made the proceedings in Norristown the most high-profile criminal trial in America since football Hall of Famer and actor O.J. Simpson was tried and acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman in Los Angeles in 1994.
Outside the courthouse for the last two weeks, supporters and foes alike have congregated, paraded, protested and debated. Several women who accused him stepped up to tell their stories of being incapacitated and then molested.
While several alleged victims have sued Cosby, and he has settled with some and still is fighting others, only Constand’s case has been prosecuted, in large part because the statute of limitations had expired in most of the cases, some dating to the 1960s.
So Saturday, after jurors convened briefly before announcing they could not agree unanimously on whether he was guilty or innocent, the scene was no different.
As the parties spilled out of the courthouse, fans of Cosby chanted, “We love you Bill.”
Cosby stood silently as a spokeswoman read a statement from his wife Camille, in which she thanked her husband’s team but condemned Steele, O’Neill, lawyers for other women who have accused her husband, and the press.
“How do I describe the district attorney? Heinously and exploitatively ambitious. How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant in collaborating with the district attorney,” said the statement by Camille Cosby, who only appeared in court for one of the 11 days of testimony and deliberations.
“How do I describe the counsels for the accusers? Totally unethical. How do I describe many but not all general media? Blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truth for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.
“Historically people have challenged injustices. I am grateful to any of the jurors who tenaciously fought to review the evidence, which is the rightful way to make a sound decision. Ultimately that is a manifestation of justice based on facts, not on lies. As a very special friend once stated, ‘Truth can be subdued but not destroyed.’ “
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt declared the mistrial a victory, while Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several of the women who have accused Cosby of drugging and molesting them, countered that neither side won and that she is happy Cosby will face another jury.
Cosby accuser Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy Playmate of the Month, criticized the jury’s failure to convict him. “A woman’s worth was on trial these last two weeks and society had failed her and failed us,” Valentino said.
One accuser had a different outlook.
“I’m hopeful. I get it, someone in that room believed his guilt. And someone didn’t. That’s what America is all about,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, who said Cosby sexually assaulted her after a tennis tournament in Las Vegas in 1981. “Neither side won, neither side lost. To be spouting victory is a smokescreen.”
She hopes the judge will allow the prosecution to bring more accusers to testify, rather than just the one he allowed during this month’s trial.
“Isn’t that what the jury deserves? All the information?” Kirkpatrick said. “If it seems like it would take a long time to parade 62 outspoken verbal survivors up there, well buckle down then, you might just need more hotels in Norristown.”
During his news conference, Steele acknowledged he was disappointed with the hung jury but urged everyone to “stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens next time around.”
Steele noted that his last deadlocked jury was about a quarter-century ago, and he retried the case and won. “This is a do-over. We start again. Just because a verdict was not reached in one case doesn’t mean it won’t be reached the next time around,” he said.
The district attorney also said his team hopes “that moving forward in this case sends a strong message that victims of these crimes can come forward and be heard.”
Serial predator or falsely accused?
During the trial and deliberations, the judge had rejected seven bids by Cosby’s team to declare a mistrial.
After he finally declared one, O’Neill told the jurors, who are from Allegheny County, 300 miles from the Philadelphia area, that their deliberations are confidential and they “cannot publicly talk about anything said or done in jury room. “
He also advised them that they don’t have to comment publicly about how they voted, nor “be a spokesperson for the criminal justice system.”
On Monday, after six days of testimony but only one defense witness, lawyers for both sides made passionate pleas to sway jurors.
“We want you to look very, very closely at his words,” Steele said in his closing statements. “Because when you do, there is no other decision to make in this case than that he is guilty of aggravated indecent assault.”
In the end, Cosby’s own words from his 12-year-old deposition and a recorded telephone call to Constand’s mother — became the most compelling evidence against him.
To counter that, McMonagle asked jurors to treat Cosby as if he were their grandfather. In deciding this case, he said, “we’re talking about an old man’s tomorrows.”
The defense team’s driving message throughout the trial: Constand and Cosby were lovers, and the 2004 incident in question was one of many trysts between the two.
For Constand, a 6-foot former college and professional basketball player, the pleas to sympathize with her alleged abuser only steeled her determination. She took the stand just feet away from Cosby, speaking publicly for the first time about the encounter she reported to police in 2005.
Now a 44-year-old massage therapist living in Toronto, Constand remained largely unfazed as defense lawyer Angela Agrusa grilled her with questions about phone calls she made to Cosby and inconsistencies in her previous statements to police.
Constand has become a potent messenger for other Cosby accusers whose cases now are too old to prosecute. The other women saw Constand’s cooperation with prosecutors as a way of pursuing collective justice against a world-famous comedian they say capitalized on his fame to seduce scores of young women who he drugged into a stupor and then sexually assaulted.
Cosby spokesman Wyatt had counter-attacked from the courthouse steps by casting the trial in racial terms, saying the prosecution has provided a “formula” for malicious accusers to “destroy our iconic figures’ legacies.”
Such a blueprint could be used against “other American citizens, like the Lebron James of the world, the Michael Jordans, the President Obamas, the Colin Powells,” he said.