NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case began deliberating Wednesday in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, weighing charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home 14 years ago.
The seven men and five women got the case after receiving final instructions from the judge.
The two-week trial pitted Cosby, the 80-year-old former TV star once beloved 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 violated her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004. He said their encounter was consensual.
Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison.
Twice by late afternoon, the jury had questions for the judge, asking him for the legal meaning of “consent” and requesting to see written statements from prosecution star witness Marguerite Jackson, a former Temple colleague of Constand’s who testified that Constand spoke of framing a prominent person for the money before she went to the police about Cosby.
Judge Steve O’Neill told the jurors they had already been given the definitions of the charges, and he said they would have to rely on their memory of Jackson’s statements.
Deliberations got underway after a marathon day of closing arguments Tuesday that portrayed the comedian both as a calculating predator who is finally being brought to justice and as the victim of a multimillion-dollar frame-up by a “pathological liar.”
“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 told the jury.
Cosby’s lawyers argued that the charges were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence.”
The jury heard testimony from five other women who said that Cosby drugged and violated them, too. Before excusing the jurors to deliberate, O’Neill told them they could consider the women’s testimony as possible evidence that Cosby had a pattern of predatory behavior, but he forbade them from using it to find that the comedian is “a person of bad character.”
Facing the prospect of a conviction and lengthy prison term, Cosby nevertheless seemed in good spirits Wednesday, giving a quick fist pump and sashaying toward well-wishers chanting, “We love Bill!” as he arrived at the courthouse.
His more streamlined first trial ended in a hung jury last year after six days of deliberations. Only one additional accuser testified that time. 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 has been 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’s lawyers went after Constand hard, attacking her credibility and character and highlighting more a dozen inconsistencies in what she said over the years. They argued that she falsely accused Cosby so she could sue him and extract a big settlement.
“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.
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. Feden 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 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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