As Bill Cosby goes on trial again, here's a bird's eye view of the sexual assault case
Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually molesting a Temple University women's basketball administrator and more than 60 women have accused "America's Dad" of sexual assault
Stand-up comedian and actor Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial began in Pennsylvania on Monday, beginning with jury selection. It was revealed that five additional accusers who will testify against the comedian.
The 80-year-old faces a retrial for three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault after a woman named Andrea Constand was allegedly drugged and assaulted at his Pennsylvania mansion in 2004. On June 17, 2017, the first trial ended in a mistrial.
The retrial of Bill Cosby is held in the suburban Philadelphia town of Norristown. Here is everything you need to know about it.
The reason why he is being tried again a second time
Bill Cosby’s first trial on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball official, ended in a mistrial on June 17.
After 52 hours, the jury said they were hopelessly deadlocked. The mistrial was declared at the Montgomery County, Pa., District and Attorney Kevin Steele immediately announced that he would retry Cosby.
How is this trial different?
This trial will allow five previous accusers to testify as prosecution witnesses. The ruling by Steven T. O’Neill, the Montgomery County, Pa., judge overseeing the case, gives prosecutors a huge opening to press their argument that Cosby is a serial sexual assaulter.
O’Neill had allowed only one previous accuser to testify at the first trial. In the first trial, the jury was selected in Pittsburgh because of defense concerns about pretrial publicity in the Philadelphia area. This time, the defense did not ask for the jury to be selected in another jurisdiction, so the panel will be from the same area — Montgomery County, Pa. — where the retrial will be held.
This time Cosby has new attorneys. His previous defense team was headed by Brian McMonagle, a highly respected Philadelphia defense attorney who withdrew from the case after the mistrial without explanation. Cosby’s defense is now headed by Thomas Mesereau, a famed Los Angeles attorney who won an acquittal for pop star Michael Jackson on child molestation charges.
What are the criminal charges against Cosby?
Cosby is accused of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in early 2004. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
At least 60 women have publicly accused Cosby of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment between the 1960s and 2000s. The statutes of limitation have expired for most of their cases, preventing the accusers from seeking criminal charges. But criminal charges were filed against Cosby in the Constand case just before the expiration of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.
Legal experts say much of the case rests on the credibility of Cosby’s main accuser. Constand, a former professional basketball player, who testified at the first trial as she fought back tears, how her vision blurred after Bill Cosby gave her pills.
“I told Mr. Cosby that I had trouble seeing him,” she told jurors. “I could see two of him.” Under cross-examination, Constand struggled to explain inconsistencies in her statements to investigators — including the date of the alleged assault and whether she maintained contact with Cosby.
Andrea Constand’s mother proved to be a formidable witness at the first trial, offering testimony about a call she secretly recorded with Cosby and about other conversations with the man she believes sexually assaulted her daughter. She told jurors that Cosby told her in a call she did not record that “he was sorry for what he did.”
The past accusers
Prosecutors have said they will call five women who have alleged they were sexually assaulted by Cosby between 1982 and the mid-1990s. The known accuser is Janice Dickinson, a former supermodel who has made frequent and often emotional television appearances to lay out her claim that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at a Lake Tahoe hotel. Dickinson says Cosby gave her a blue pill that immobilized her arms and legs and left her unconscious, and that she awoke with a “sharp pain in her buttocks.”
Dickinson’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, confirmed the former model is “ready, willing and able to testify truthfully about her experience.”
Another accuser, Janice Baker-Kinney, was a bartender at Harrah’s Reno. She says she became “fuzzy” and “woozy” after taking two pills at a house in Reno where Cosby had lured her with promises of a party that never materialized. Heidi Thomas, a model who also is slated to testify, says she, too, was drugged and assaulted by Cosby in Reno.
Two other witnesses joining them will be Chelan Lasha and Lise-Lotte Lublin. They both say they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in his suite at a Las Vegas hotel in the mid- to late 1980s. Lasha says she believes Cosby slipped a drug into a glass of Amaretto he gave her. Lublin says Cosby gave her two drinks, saying they would help “relax” her.
Prosecutors have signaled that they do not plan to call Kelley Johnson, the one previous accuser who was allowed to testify at Cosby’s first trial. Johnson sobbed on the witness stand while recounting her allegation that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at a Los Angeles hotel.
The strongest evidence against Cosby
Cosby gave extraordinary testimony in 2005 and 2006 during a lawsuit filed against him by Constand. (The case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.) Over the course of four days of questioning, Cosby admitted to acquiring quaaludes, a powerful sedative that was once a popular recreational drug, to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex in the 1970s. Cosby also testified about his sexual contact with Constand but characterized it as consensual. In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged giving pills to Constand but said they were the over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl.
Weaknesses of the prosecution case
There appears to be no physical evidence to support Constand’s allegations. She was not examined by a doctor after the alleged incident. She did not contact police until a year later, and there are several inconsistencies in her statements to investigators that could be used to undercut her credibility. Though the criminal case was filed just before the expiration of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, it will be going to trial more than 14 years after the alleged incident.