April 9 (UPI) — Prosecutors said Monday that comedian Bill Cosby paid Andrea Constand nearly $3.4 million to settle her 2005 sexual assault lawsuit.
During his opening statement to jurors at Cosby’s sexual assault retrial, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said the $3.4 million payment was intended to silence Constand after she accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her at his home in Cheltenham, Pa.
Steele added both parties signed a confidentiality agreement to hide the details of the payment for years.
Cosby, 80, pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent assault in the first trial. A judge declared a mistrial in June after jurors could not agree on a unanimous decision on any charge.
The first trial provided little forensic evidence and Constand, a former Temple University employee, as a primary witness.
Steele emphasized to jurors that Constand didn’t approach his office, but rather investigators sought her out after Cosby’s deposition in a civil suit was unsealed in 2015.
“The evidence in this case will show that Andrea Constand didn’t come to us. What happened was, after this gets released, we go to her. And we ask if she’s willing to help the commonwealth,” Steele said.
Steele reminded the jury Constand’s account may contain inconsistencies, as she recalls the incedent in which she was hazy from allegedly being drugged by Cosby.
“You’re going to hear her describe to the best of her ability what happened,” Steele said. “When I say to the best of her ability, make sure you consider those pills and that glass of wine because then he [Cosby] helped her to a sofa. She’s unconscious, she’s jolted. And she’s herself being violated.”
The retrial, comes after the recent rise of a women’s movement condemning some men in the entertainment business. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey are among those who have been accused of harassment and assault. Cosby, though, is the only Hollywood celebrity facing criminal charges. If convicted he could spend up to 10 years in prison.
Protesters gathered outisde the Montgomery County courthouse as Cosby arrived. A topless woman vaulted a barricade and rushed toward Cosby, but was detained by deputies.
Police identified her as Nicolle Rochelle, a 38-year-old actress who appeared four times on The Cosby Show as a friend of Rudy Huxtable.
Rochelle could be heard chanting “women’s lives matter” as police led her away in handcuffs.
On Sunday, Rochelle posted a Facebook photo of herself standing outside the New York City home used for the exterior shots of the Huxtable residence.
“In honor of the first day of the Bill Cosby retrial, I went by the address where they filmed The Cosby Show exterior in New York City…LET’S HOPE JUSTICE WILL FINALLY BE SERVED !” she captioned the photo.
For the new trial, the jury of seven men and five women were asked about their thoughts on the #MeToo movement during the jury selection process.
Prosecutors will be able to seek testimony from up to five women who say Cosby drugged and assaulted them. One woman testified at the first trial.
Cosby is also represented by a new attorney, Tom Mesereau, who defended Michael Jackson in a 2005 child molestation case.
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