As trial winds down, DA downplays Cosby travel records

Bill Cosby
The Associated Press

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Prosecutors highlighted gaps in Bill Cosby’s travel records on Monday as they sought to downplay their significance to the comedian’s defense on sexual assault charges.

Cosby’s lawyers introduced the records in an attempt to show he couldn’t have been at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004, the month his chief accuser alleges he drugged and sexually molested her there.

But prosecutors pointed out multiple stretches of time that month when Cosby wasn’t aboard his private jet or performing around the country. And District Attorney Kevin Steele noted in court Monday that the records reflect only jet travel, not other modes of transportation.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from his encounter with Andrea Constand. Cosby, now 80, says she consented. His first trial last year ended with a hung jury.

As the retrial entered its third week, the judge said he expected closing arguments on Tuesday.

The date of Cosby’s encounter with Constant is important because of the date he was charged. Prosecutors reopened the case in 2015, and he was charged late that year — just before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire.

The flight records and travel itineraries produced by Cosby’s lawyers do not show any flights in or out of the Philadelphia area in January 2004, indicating he wasn’t around for the alleged assault, according to the defense. Cosby’s lawyers argue that any encounter with Constand at his suburban home must have happened earlier, thus falling outside the statute of limitations.

But the records also have large gaps — a total of 17 days that month in which Cosby wasn’t traveling, performing or taping TV appearances.

Cross-examining a defense aviation expert, Steele, the prosecutor, zeroed in on March 16, 2004, the date Constand said she confronted Cosby after a dinner he hosted at a Chinese restaurant for Philadelphia high school students.

Cosby’s private jet records don’t show him taking any flights to the Philadelphia area around that time, either.

“You can’t tell us whether he got on a commercial flight,” Steele said. “You can’t tell us whether he got on a train. You can’t tell us whether he got in a car and drove to Philadelphia.”

Jurors also heard Monday from Roslyn Yarbrough, a former secretary for Cosby’s agent, who testified that Cosby spent most of his time at his Massachusetts estate and New York City townhouse, and was “very rarely” at the home near Philadelphia.

As court opened, Judge Steven O’Neill blocked the defense from using old deposition testimony from a confidante of Constand’s, dealing a blow to his lawyers’ effort to undermine Constand’s credibility.

The defense wanted to use Sheri Williams’ deposition, given as part of Constand’s 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby, after failing to reach Williams with a subpoena to testify in front of the jury. O’Neill rejected the request, saying a prosecutor should have the right to cross-examine her.

Constand testified at Cosby’s first trial last year that she and Williams were good friends and were in touch as she went to police in January 2005 with allegations the TV star drugged and molested her.

Cosby’s lawyers said they expected Williams’ testimony to refute Constand’s claims that she was unaware he was romantically interested in her. They said she’d show that Constand “could not have been the unwitting victim” prosecutors have portrayed.

Cosby settled Constand’s civil lawsuit for nearly $3.4 million.

Outside court, Cosby’s lawyers and publicists have been taking aim at Constand’s credibility in the media with attacks that O’Neill has determined to be too prejudicial or irrelevant for the jury.

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt has decried Constand’s allegations of drugging and molestation as “fantastical stories” and deemed Steele an “extortionist” for spending taxpayer money on the case.

Lawyer Dennis McAndrews, who’s been in court following the retrial, said prominent defendants like Cosby almost always play to the court of public opinion when there’s no gag order, but that his team’s approach hasn’t been “particularly effective or convincing.”

“It is so strident, and it is so hyperbolic, I think most people will turn it off,” said McAndrews, who prosecuted chemical heir John E. du Pont for murder in 1997 and is not associated with either side in the Cosby case.

Cosby’s lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, opened the retrial by calling Constand a “con artist” who framed Cosby for a big payday. Her former Temple University colleague Marguerite Jackson testified that Constand once mused about setting up a high-profile person.

Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, said in an interview that the defense attacks on her client are “absolutely part of their strategy to smear her reputation. They know they have judicial immunity, so they can say these things whether or not there’s a basis in fact.”

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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