Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania has moved at a brisk pace and produced gripping testimony along with moments of levity. The case could reach the jury early this week.
The aging Hollywood icon is charged with drugging and molesting a young woman he befriended through his alma mater, Temple University, in 2004.
The trial involves only accuser Andrea Constand, although about 60 women have accused Cosby of similar misconduct over his long career as an actor, comedian, author and, as one judge said, “public moralist.”
Constand went to police in 2005, but the local prosecutor declined to press charges. Authorities reopened her complaint in 2015 after learning Cosby had testified in her lawsuit to giving various women wine, pills or even quaaludes before sex.
Prosecutors called 12 witnesses over five days before resting on Friday. Cosby, 79, could take the stand when the defense starts its case Monday, although most court observers call that risky given the cross-examination he would face.
Here’s a recap of the trial’s first week and a look at what’s ahead.
How did accuser Andrea Constand do on the stand?
Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, Pool)The case largely rests on the credibility of accuser Andrea Constand, a former professional basketball player who worked at Temple from 2002 to 2004 as director of operations for the women’s team. Calm and direct, she remained unrattled over more than seven hours of testimony over two days. She occasionally grew teary discussing the sexual encounter, when she said she was semi-conscious and could not object.
She said Cosby had “never said a word to me” to convey his interest in her, although she acknowledged she had twice before rebuffed his advances. Despite that, she said, she did not feel threatened and accepted his invitation to come to the house to discuss her career that night and trusted him when he offered her three pills for stress.
Constand, 44, now a massage therapist and yoga enthusiast in her native Toronto, put her hands together in a quick Namaste pose when she finished her first day of testimony and smiled broadly as she left the stand the next day.
How has the defense fought back?
The defense has hammered home inconsistencies in Constand’s statements and insists she had a consensual, romantic relationship with Cosby, who was not only a celebrity but a high-powered trustee at Temple. They stress that she has changed the date of the encounter from March 16, 2004, to sometime in January. They also poured over her phone records to show 73 later phone calls between her and Cosby. Constand says she had to return calls from Cosby given her job and his status on campus.
Cosby’s list of their prior “romantic” episodes includes a time they spent 15 minutes resting on a bed together at a casino hotel, when Cosby says he held her in his arms but did not kiss her. Constand says she sat at the edge of the bed, with one foot on the floor. But Cosby also says in his testimony in her lawsuit that he had once before put his hand down her pants, and his fingers inside her body, without her objecting until he tried to kiss her breasts. Constand says she pushed him away when he grabbed her zipper.
What’s been Cosby’s demeanor?
Bill Cosby arrives with actress Sheila Frazier, (left), and Frazier’s husband John Atchison, a celebrity hairstylist, for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)
Cosby has appeared in good spirits as he fights charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. He plays to the cameras and onlookers as he walks in and out of the courthouse each day, wishing a fan a happy birthday or raising his wooden cane to salute well-wishers who shout, “We love you, Bill Cosby!” and “Hey, hey, hey!,” the catchphrase from his “Fat Albert” TV show. It’s a stark contrast from the feeble-looking Cosby who hobbled into his arraignment after his Dec. 30, 2015, arrest. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt says, “He’s 79 years old and he’s feeling good.”
Inside the grand, century-old courtroom, the veteran performer has been mostly subdued. As Constand and a second accuser testified, Cosby — who says he’s legally blind — looked down at the defense table or stared toward the witness stand, often with a hand across his forehead. Other times, he confers with his lawyers. And, when there’s a light moment, he’ll smile and laugh.
Who’s with Cosby in court?
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)
Mornings at Cosby’s trial have been a bit like the old show “This is Your Life,” with college and Hollywood friends showing up to support him and reminisce. Keshia Knight Pulliam, who starred as the youngest daughter on “The Cosby Show” walked Cosby into court Monday. Sheila Frazier, an actress from the 1970s hit movie “Superfly” and her husband, Cosby hairstylist John Atchison, escorted Cosby in and out of the courthouse Wednesday. Comedic actors Lewis Dix Jr. and Joe Torry appeared with Cosby on Thursday. Cosby’s own family, however, has been noticeably absent. Wyatt says some of Cosby’s family will join him in court this week. He says Cosby told wife Camille to stay away so she didn’t have to endure the “media circus.”
What’s the atmosphere like in court?
The mood has been serious and the testimony often gripping, with a few moments of unplanned levity. The gallery includes several tightly packed rows of reporters from The New York Times, Variety, foreign outlets and elsewhere, along with a few Cosby accusers. The proceedings turned sober as Constand testified over two days.
WHYY interviewed Christine Cornell, a courtroom sketch artist for more than 40 years who says Bill Cosby is a joy to draw because ‘he’s like a gargoyle. ‘He has very tragedian features, very expressive.’
Read Dana DiFilippo’s piece, Drawing on years of courtroom experience, N.J. artist renders Cosby trial scenes and check out the courtroom sketches here.
The light moments include: Constand’s brother-in-law struggling to remember the year he got married but instantly knowing the day he joined the Toronto police force; her mother testifying that she had been truthful in telling Cosby — who thought he was being recorded — that she has a parrot and telling the court his name is “Ozzie”; and Judge Steven O’Neill bringing in an oversized gavel and promising to use it if things get rowdy after jurors asked why he didn’t have one.
O’Neill has been looking out for the jury, given that they are sequestered 300 miles from their Pittsburgh-areas homes. He’s made sure court doesn’t run late on nights their city’s hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are playing in the Stanley Cup finals. “What time does the puck drop?” O’Neill asked Thursday.