Bill Cosby trial opens with week of intense testimony
After 12 witnesses over the course of a week, the prosecution rested Friday in Bill Cosby’s trial.
The case against “America’s Dad” was almost entirely absent of forensic evidence, and instead relied on intensely personal witness testimony. Cosby, who has pleaded not guilty to three charges of aggravated indecent assault, has said he will not personally testify.
But testimony from others has been at turns emotional and straightforward; furious and calm; and riveting and tedious. A week into the 79-year-old comedian’s high-profile trial, here’s a look at the most compelling moments of the trial so far.
Prosecutor points at Cosby in opening statements
Since the flood of accusers reached a tipping point in late 2014, Cosby’s fall from beloved comedian to alleged criminal has been rapid and significant. That fall was made clear with a dramatic finger-point early in assistant district attorney Kristen Feden’s opening statements.
“Trust, betrayal, and the inability to consent. That’s what this case is about,” Feden said.
“This is a case about a man, this man,” she said, pointing at Cosby, “who used his power, and his fame, and his previously practiced method of placing a young trusting woman in an incapacitated state so that he could sexually pleasure himself so that she couldn’t say no.”
Feden detailed how Cosby gave Constand three pills that incapacitated her and then sexually assaulted her at his home.
Yet she also emphasized that the defendant isn’t just some person. It is Bill Cosby.
“The man sitting accused of very heinous crimes is a man that many of us recognize,” she said.
Andrea Constand tells the story of the alleged assault
Constand is the prosecution’s central witness, and her allegations that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her form the core of the case. On Tuesday, the curly-haired former basketball player took the stand and told her story clearly and firmly.
As the director of operations for Temple University women’s basketball team from 2001-2004, Constand befriended Cosby, a powerful trustee at the school. He became a mentor and father figure to her, she testified.
In January 2004, she visited him at his home in suburban Philadelphia to discuss her future career plans. He offered her three blue pills that he said were herbal and would help her relax, she testified.
“Put them down, they’re your friends. They’ll take the edge off,” Cosby told her, she testified. “I said ‘I trust you.’ I took the pills and I swallowed the pills down.”
About 20 to 30 minutes later, her words were slurred and she became weak, and she told Cosby about her symptoms, she said. He moved her to a couch and then sidled in behind her as she said she became “frozen” and incapacitated.
She continued: “I have no recollection until at some point later I was jolted conscious, I was jolted awake, and I felt Mr. Cosby’s hand groping my breasts. I also felt his hand inside my vagina moving in and out. And I felt him take my hand and place it on his penis and move it back and forth.”
Constand got up in the morning still felt disoriented, she testified.
“I felt really humiliated and I was really confused,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I just wanted to go home.”
Bill Cosby shakes and lowers his head during her story
Cosby, who is now legally blind and walks with a cane, has largely sat quietly at the defense table.
During Constand’s testimony, though, he was expressive in his physical movements. He lowered his head and shook it several times in apparent disagreement. He leaned his head on his hand and shook it more.
Cosby’s statements to police in 2005 and in a civil deposition in 2006, in which he said his sexual contact with Constand was consensual, have been read aloud to the jury.
But his physical responses to Constand’s testimony may be the closest in-person response from Cosby that jurors will see.
Andrea Constand concedes she was ‘mistaken’ in police statements
Constand testimony was not without issues. Defense attorneys have argued that their relationship was consensual, and they pointed out that Constand’s initial statements to police in January 2005 changed several times compared to her later testimony.
For example, Constand initially told police that the assault occurred at Cosby’s house on March 16, 2004, after a dinner with Cosby and other friends. However, she conceded in testimony that the assault occurred on a different date and was not after a dinner.
“I was mistaken,” Constand said. “It was a lot of confusion putting a lot of dates together.”
In addition, Constand told investigators that she did not spend time alone with Cosby prior to the alleged assault, and that she did not have contact with him afterward.
But she admitted on the stand that she had been alone with Cosby on previous occasions, and even visited him in his hotel room at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Constand was in touch with him after the assault, too. Phone records showed they made a total of 72 phone calls, but Constand said those calls were primarily to update Cosby on the Temple women’s basketball team, which was her job. And in August 2004, she asked Cosby’s representatives for tickets for her and her family to Cosby’s stand-up show in Toronto, which she did not initially tell police.
“I was really nervous and wasn’t able to recall every particular moment that I had seen Mr. Cosby in order of dates,” she explained.
After a year of silence, Constand spoke up
Though the alleged assault took place in January 2004, Constand did not tell anyone else about the incident until a year later. At the end of March 2004, she left Temple and moved back in with her parents in Canada.
Gianna Constand, Andrea’s mother, testified on Wednesday that she noticed her daughter was twitching, had become more anxious, and was screaming in the night.
In January 2005, after a night of particularly bad dreams, she called her mother told her that she thought she had post-traumatic stress disorder. Gianna Constand asked her what was the matter, and Andrea Constand opened up. She called Cosby “a bad word” and said he had drugged and raped her, Gianna Constand testified.
The mother, driving in her car on the way to work, started shaking and had to pull off the highway, she said.
“I could tell that she was in a real bad, panicking state of mind,” the concerned mother said.
Gianna Constand has ‘aggressive’ phone call with Cosby
When they met up later in the day, Gianna Constand made her daughter give her Bill Cosby’s phone number. She then called Cosby and spoke with him for more than two hours in what she testified was an “aggressive conversation.”
In the call, Cosby detailed what he did sexually to Andrea Constand, even going so far as to say she had an orgasm. He was “trying to lead me to believe that it was consensual or that it was OK by her, manipulating it,” Gianna Constand said.
Cosby told her he was a “sick man” and admitted that “I sound like a perverted person,” she testified. She got “aggressive” and “rude” with him and pressed him on what drugs her daughter had taken that made her incapacitated.
He said he could not read the prescription bottle, she testified, so he agreed to send it to her. She said she never did receive that bottle
He asked what he could do to help, and she said all she wanted was an apology. He then apologized to both daughter and mother, Gianna Constand testified.
Toward the end of her testimony, the mother broke down, wiping tears from her eyes.
“I knew that Mr. Cosby had mentored her and they were good friends. She viewed him like a father,” she said. “I was obviously very distraught at … just the fact that he betrayed her.”
First-week legal fireworks
Gianna Constand’s fiery cross-examination provided the biggest legal fireworks of the trial, as she was defiant and often fired back with curt retorts to defense attorney Angela Agrusa’s questioning.
During her testimony, the mother said that Cosby asked her to add Andrea Constand to their phone call in 2005. In cross-examination, Agrusa suggested that Cosby did so because he thought Andrea Constand would explain to her mother that they had a romantic relationship.
Wrong, Gianna Constand testified, he did so because “he wasn’t going to tell the truth,” she said sharply.
Agrusa pressed the point, and suggested Cosby thought their sexual activity was consensual.
“Whatever you feel,” Gianna Constand said, pointedly. “Whatever you think.”
Agrusa also asked Gianna Constand about what she told police at that time, and the mother said she couldn’t remember all the details. After several of these questions, Gianna Constand took aim at the attorney’s line of questioning.
“I feel you’re testing my memory about irrelevant things,” she said.
Kelly Johnson says she was drugged and assaulted
Though Cosby has been accused of assault by dozens of women, the charges at trial only deal with Constand’s accusations. However, one other woman, Kelly Johnson, was allowed to testify as prosecutors sought to show that Cosby had a pattern of prior bad acts that were similar.
Johnson was the first witness called on Monday, alleging that Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996.
Johnson, who was an assistant at the William Morris talent agency, became familiar with Cosby, who was the company’s biggest client, she said. He took an interest in her and would often call her “in a fatherly, favorite uncle, Dr. Huxtable type of way,” she said, referring to Cosby’s character on his TV show.
In 1996, he invited her to a hotel to get lunch, she said. But when she arrived, she said she was instead directed to his private bungalow, where he said he would order in lunch. Once there, Cosby told her she “looked like (she) needed to relax a little bit” and offered her a large white pill, she testified.
Fighting back tears, Johnson testified that when she seemed hesitant, Cosby asked her, “Would I give you anything to hurt you?” She said she took the pill because she “felt extremely intimidated.” After taking the pill, she felt like she was “underwater,” she said.
In a semi-unconscious state, she then went to the bed and Cosby laid behind her, making grunting noises, she testified. In addition, he put lotion on her hand and then made her touch his penis, she testified through tears.
Jurors hear of Cosby’s use of Quaaludes
Jurors on Thursday and Friday listened as witnesses read aloud Cosby’s statements to police in 2005 and his answers in a civil deposition in 2006. Cosby said in the police statement that he gave Constand over-the-counter Benadryl, and that she was awake and consented to their sexual activity.
But his statements in the civil deposition were far more damaging. In those, Cosby said he had obtained Quaaludes to give them to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Defense attorneys had asked the judge not to allow those comments at trial to no avail.
The Quaalude comments were unsealed for the first time in July 2015, and they ultimately led the Montgomery County district attorney to file assault charges against Cosby.
Cosby arrives with company
Each day of the trial, Cosby has arrived to the courthouse arm-in-arm with someone recognizable, be it his publicist Andrew Wyatt or a celebrity friend.
On Monday, he was joined by Keshia Knight Pulliam, 38, who played Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”
He arrived Tuesday with Wyatt, his faithful publicist, who has helped escort Cosby into the courtroom every day of the trial so far.
On Wednesday, Cosby walked hand-in-hand with Sheila Frazier, who played Cosby’s wife in the 1978 film “California Suite,” and her husband John Atchison, a celebrity hairstylist.
On Thursday, Cosby entered court with two comedians. One was Lewis Dix Jr., a Philadelphia native who acted in “Cosby” and in “A Different World,” a spinoff of the “The Cosby Show.” The other was Joe Torry, an actor who has been featured in “Tales From the Hood” and several episodes of “ER.”
His wife Camille has not yet arrived with him.
Judge Steven O’Neill doubles as ‘activity planner’ for jury
Because of the intense media coverage of the trial, Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that the jury would be sequestered for the trial. The jurors, chosen from near Pittsburgh, were bused in to the area and are being kept at hotels away from their families.
They aren’t allowed to go out on their own, so O’Neill has had to double as both “trial judge and also activity planner,” he said in court. He helps order their meals and plan their breaks, and he even apologized on Monday for what he called a “snack snafu.”
“We don’t have the Department of Sequestration,” he said, acknowledging some food-related issue in the juror break room. “We need to do a better job.”
O’Neill’s role in charge of jurors has sometimes contrasted with the traumatic testimony in the trial. For example, he paused during cross-examination questions to Andrea Constand on Tuesday to discuss with a court aide the dinner plans for jurors, he explained.