The third day of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial ended Wednesday with a telephone call: Prosecutors played a recording of the elderly entertainer’s 2005 call to Andrea Constand’s mother, in which he apologized — and offered to pay for her graduate-school tuition, so long as she maintained good grades.
Gianna Constand sobbed on the witness stand as she recounted how her daughter endured nightmares, twitching and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after Cosby allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004 in his Cheltenham Township mansion. Cosby stared wide-eyed at the counsel table as she cried. During the two-hour phone call that Gianna Constand secretly recorded, Cosby refused to tell her what pills he gave her daughter.
“We had covered many things about his personal life; he admitted he was a sick man,” Gianna Constand said, prompting Cosby to shake his head at the defense table. “He said: ‘I feel bad telling you this … I sound like a perverted person.’”
Before her mother took the stand, Andrea Constand, 44, had spent about seven hours over two days testifying at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown. She talked about her relationship with Cosby – and steadfastly defended herself as defense attorneys aggressively tried to discredit her by suggesting the encounter in question was consensual.
Constand, a Toronto resident and former professional basketball player, is one of nearly 60 women who have publicly accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over five decades. But she’s the only one whose complaint has resulted in criminal charges, mostly because of expired statutes of limitations.
On Tuesday, Constand testified that her professional relationship with the elderly entertainer, which started when Cosby was a Temple University trustee and Constand worked in Temple’s athletics department, evolved into friendship. While over time Cosby made several sexual advances, she told the court she made it clear she didn’t want anything beyond mentorship. But during a visit to his Cheltenham Township mansion in 2004, she testified, Cosby plied her with wine and three blue pills that he assured her were safe herbal supplements — and then grabbed her breast and groped her genitals, while she was helpless to resist.
On Tuesday and again today, Cosby’s lawyers tried to cast doubt on Constand, saying she gave different details on the stand than what she told police and claimed in her 2005 civil lawsuit. Defense attorneys Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa have argued the pair had a romantic relationship and that their sexual encounter was consensual.
Cosby’s fate, then, may turn on the words of Constand — and what jurors believe caused any discrepancies between what she told authorities more than a decade ago and what she has said in court this week.
Did time cost Constand some clarity — or is she lying? That unspoken question shaped attorneys’ questioning this morning.
“You didn’t tell the officers that you had previously gone over to Mr. Cosby’s house and had wine and brandy and sat by the fire and put your legs up near each other?” Agrusa asked Constand today.
Agrusa grilled Constand about how she interacted with Cosby in the months and weeks before the alleged sexual assault.
“Mr. Cosby touched your inner thigh, and you allowed him to do that, right? And you said goodnight to Mr. Cosby, and you gave him an embrace?” Agrusa said, of an earlier encounter with Cosby.
Constand replied: “That may have been right.”
Of another encounter, Agrusa said: “The room was dark, and there was a nice mood, right? The lights were dim and the fire was going, right?”
Constand countered: “I don’t really remember how dim the lights were.”
Tuesday, Constand told the jury Cosby had grown “suggestive” in some of his interactions with her, even once trying to unzip her pants. She said she swatted him away, saying: “That’s not what I’m here for.”
Agrusa also tried to show a mutual romantic interest by questioning Constand about gifts she and Cosby often gave each other.
Cosby gave her a $225 hair dryer, for instance. At the time, Constand wanted to pursue a career in sports broadcasting, and Cosby suggested she straighten her hair and get a different hairstyle for professional headshots. She took his advice.
Other gifts included perfume and cashmere sweaters. And Andrea gave Cosby incense, bath salts, and even, somewhat facetiously, a photograph of Constand’s face superimposed on Fat Albert.
“It was something silly,” Constand said.
Some of the gifts were exchanged after the alleged assault – proof, Agrusa intimated, that she must have consented to the 2004 encounter in question.
“You’re coming to meet the man who assaulted you, and you’re bringing bath salts?” she asked.
In the midst of such questioning, Agrusa paused a moment before saying: “You knew Mr. Cosby was married, right?”
She did, she said.
But when prosecutor Kristen Feden took the floor again, she said Constand, who at the time still worked at Temple as director of women’s basketball operations, had an obligation to maintain ties with Cosby, a famous alumnus and trustee. Further Constand, now a massage therapist in Canada, at that time had wanted to pursue a sports-broadcasting career and saw Cosby as a way to make connections.
Defense attorneys also picked apart Constand’s telephone records – and questioned 53 calls she made to Cosby after the alleged attack – to cast doubt on her testimony.
Her cell and home phone records show that Constand frequently called her friend Sheri Williams after she socialized with Cosby, and that before she spoke with detectives, Constand consulted attorneys and tried to shore up the date of the alleged assault.
But Constand said she merely was returning messages Cosby left on her Temple University-issued cellphone, and the calls pertained only to Temple and stopped once she left the university, Constand testified.
Constand, a 6-foot-tall lifelong athlete with a big curly mane of hair, powered through the seven-hour marathon of questioning with confidence and patience, even striking a level of courteousness, addressing lawyers from both sides as “m’am” and “sir.” A few times, there were moments when her voice strained as she recounted the more lurid details of the alleged assault.
The testimony was her first public commentary on the case, because a 2006 settlement she reached in her civil lawsuit against Cosby barred her from talking about the case.
Earlier this morning, Cosby, 79, walked into the courthouse accompanied by actress Sheila Frazier, his co-star in the 1978 comedy “California Suite,” and Frazier’s husband, John Atchison, a celebrity hairstylist.
Frazier later addressed reporters outside the courthouse, urging her Hollywood colleagues to come support Cosby.
“What I am here to do is support Mr. Cosby,” she said. “And I would encourage those in my industry, other actors and other performers and comedians, to come and see for themselves. The most important thing is to come and find out what the truth is. And so that’s my primary goal in being here is to find out the truth myself – and to support my friend.”
Atchison agreed: “Mr. Cosby is a friend of mine. His family is a friend of ours. We’re here to support them; and that’s what friends do. We’re not here to say whether anyone is guilty or innocent. It’s about friendship and support.”
Minutes before jurors entered the courtroom this morning, civil-rights and gender-equality activist Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania professor, approached Cosby at the defense table, kissed him on the lips, and hugged him. The two conferred for a few minutes.
If convicted, Cosby could go to prison for the rest of his life.
Cosby tweeted in hashtags from Norristown on Monday, that #KeshiaKnightPulliam #CameToCourtToHearTheTruth. That tweet prompted an avalanche of responses, ranging from “Hang in there, Dad!” to “You’re in denial, fool!” Pulliam, who played Cosby’s perky young daughter on The Cosby Show, attended the first day of Cosby’s trial on Monday. That earned her some backlash on social media, including tweeters calling her a sellout whose support promotes “rape culture.”
— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 5, 2017
Judge Steven T. O’Neill last week put a strict decorum order in place and sequestered the jurors to shield them from media coverage and other outside influences. This afternoon, he ordered a contempt-of-court hearing for an NBC-10 reporter who he said violated his decorum order by using his smartphone to text during trial. That reporter has been barred from attending the rest of the trial.
Lawyer Gloria Allred also caused a stir during the trial when her cellphone rang this afternoon, as defense attorneys cross-examined Constand. Allred immediately left the courtroom and was allowed back in after a break. The 75-year-old attorney later said she thought the phone was turned off, and she asked people outside the courtroom to help her make sure it was.