NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Jurors at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial are poised to start deliberating after a marathon day of closing arguments that portrayed the comedian both as a calculating predator who’s finally being brought to justice and the victim of a multimillion-dollar frame-up by a “pathological liar.”
The seven men and five women sequestered at a suburban Philadelphia hotel will start weighing charges Wednesday in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. They begged off a late Tuesday start, saying they were exhausted from 5 1/2 hours of arguments.
The prosecution and defense gave them a lot to think about after a two-week trial pitting Cosby, the 80-year-old comedian once revered as “America’s Dad,” against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University sports administrator who testified that he knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over. It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said, imploring jurors to stand with Constand, look Cosby in the eye and “tell him the truth about what he did.”
Cosby’s lawyers argued the charges were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence.”
This time, prosecutors had five other women testify that Cosby drugged and violated them. One accuser asked him through tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?” Cosby’s lawyers, who contend the encounter was consensual, called a woman who said Constand spoke of framing a high-profile person to sue and extract a big settlement.
None of that was allowed at Cosby’s streamlined first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year after deliberations over six days. Nor were jurors told the amount of Cosby’s 2006 civil settlement with Constand: nearly $3.4 million, which defense lawyer Tom Mesereau on Tuesday called “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time.”
“I have never seen or heard of a retrial that was as different as this was from the first trial,” said lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who’s been in court following the retrial and is not associated with either side. “The prosecution now had multiple victims and the defense had the issue of money, which were powerful weapons for both sides.”
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison. His wife of 54 years, Camille, looked on from the gallery as his lawyers pleaded with the jury to clear him, the first time she has attended the trial. She also sat in for the defense’s closing argument at his first trial.
Camille Cosby, 74, had stayed away as the prosecution built its case that her husband maintained a sordid double life, plying women with drugs and preying on them sexually. Before the jury came in, she put her arm around Cosby, who is legally blind. They smiled and chatted, and he gave her a peck on the cheek. When it was the prosecution’s turn to argue, she left the courtroom, and Constand entered.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” said Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case. “You are.”
Prosecutor Kristen Feden called Cosby the true con artist – wresting that label from Cosby’s lawyers, who had applied it to Constand throughout the trial.
“Yes, you did hear about a con,” Feden said, her voice rising as she moved toward Cosby and pointed at him. “The perpetrator of that con is this man, sitting right here.”
She warned that the man trusted for his role as genial, sweater-wearing Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” is “nothing like the image that he played on TV.”
The defense highlighted more than a dozen inconsistencies in what Constand has said over the years and painstakingly reviewed phone and travel records, saying they prove the alleged assault couldn’t have happened when she says it did. They argued that he was charged after the 12-year statute of limitations for prosecuting him had run out.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
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