Defense attorneys attack Cosby accuser in opening statement

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Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In the telling of Bill Cosby’s lead defense lawyer, accuser Andrea Constand is a “con artist” who preyed on the entertainer’s wealth and power and entrapped him with a made-up claim of sexual assault to land a nearly $3.4 million financial settlement.

“What does she want from Bill Cosby?” defense attorney Tom Mesereau asked the jury. “Money. Money. And lots more money.”

Mesereau said the defense team’s investigation has uncovered that Constand had long struggled financially, frequently falling behind on things like phone and credit card bills, and it was only until she hit the “jackpot” with Cosby that she turned into a “multi-millionaire.”

On Tuesday, the defense had its turn to lay out the broad outlines of its defense of the embattled comedian, who is being retried on three counts of aggravated indecent assault that can carry a decade behind bars if he is convicted.

The opening remarks follow the prosecution kicking off its case against Cosby on Monday, when Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the trial is about “betrayal leading to the sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.” Steele also revealed the nearly $3.4 million Cosby paid Constand to settle her civil suit against him in 2006.

Mesereau said the defense team will show the jury that Constand ran a “pyramid scheme” while she was employed as the director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team.

“This is the person the prosecution wants you to trust beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mesereau said. “I think you’re in for a surprise when you find out who this person is.”

The focus on Constand as someone who set up Cosby to enrich herself is a different defense than the last time the 80-year-old comedian was on trial for the same charges on which a jury could not return a verdict.

Yet Mesereau has deployed the tactic before. Back in 2005, he won a jury acquittal of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges after stressing in court that Jackson’s accusers targeted him with ginned up claims in efforts to squeeze him for settlement payouts.

To Mesereau, not only was Constand always hoping to line her pockets by getting close to and entrapping Cosby, but her behavior and statements to authorities show that she has a pattern of dishonesty.

“She keeps going back to the scene of the so-called drugging and assaulting that didn’t happen,” he said, evoking the brandy-sipping fireside chats between Cosby and Constand that consumed large portions of last year’s trial.

Upon close examination, Mesereau said, Constand’s telling of the sexual assault contains too many contradictions to be believable.

“Her stories kept changing and evolving in ways that would help her in her civil suit,” he said.

Before the 2004 incident in question, Cosby had confided in Constand that he never fully recovered from the murder of his son and being the victim of an extortion plot, Mesereau said.

Constand seized on the loneliness and isolation Cosby was experiencing, Mesereau argued to jurors.

The incident at the heart of the criminal case was consensual, and it is only in retrospect that Constand is saying she was unconscious during it, he said.

“He was lonely and attracted to a younger woman,” Mesereau said. “But he didn’t commit a crime.”

Finally, Mesereau suggested to jurors, the prosecution’s case is “nonsense,” but government lawyers, he said, hope that the additional five Cosby accusers set to take the stand during the trial, and the fact that the retrial comes amid the #MeToo movement, will give them an edge.

“This is prosecution by distraction,” said Mesereau. “It is a he-said, she-said, but what I think they’re hoping in the current climate, you’ll be prejudiced. Maybe you’ll be too blinded by accusations.”

At the time Constand and Cosby started getting closer, Cosby, who was 30 years her senior, recognized that she way trying to find her way in life, debating whether to go to pursue a career in broadcast news, go to massage therapy school or something else entirely. No matter what, though, Mesereau said Constand always had her eye on exploiting Cosby to help advance her life.

“Hollywood is a treacherous place,” Mesereau said. “If you’re a young star, everybody wants a piece of the action.”

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