NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Acknowledging that the charges against Bill Cosby amount to largely a “he said, she said” case, a prosecutor told jurors in the entertainer’s retrial Monday that he was nonetheless confident they will convict him of drugging and molesting a woman at his home outside Philadelphia in early 2004.
“This case is about betrayal,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele in his opening address to the jury of seven men and five women — a new jury empaneled to decide the case against Cosby after another jury deadlocked on the charges last June.
Steele also disclosed that Cosby paid $3.38 million to settle the civil lawsuit brought by Andrea Constand, then the operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University and now the woman at the heart of the sexual assault case. The amount of that settlement has long remained confidential, and both sides are now expected to try to use the settlement to their advantage.
“We’re very confident that you all will be able to do justice in this case,” Steele told the jury. “We are very confident that you will convict the defendant…for what he did to Andrea Constand on that night in January 2004.”
Cosby’s defense lawyer, Tom Mesereau, is scheduled to deliver his opening statement Tuesday morning — and to challenge the credibility of Constand, now a massage therapist in Canada.
In a measured outline of the case, Steele said that Cosby, a mentor and friend of Constand’s, coaxed her to take three blue pills to help her relax in his Montgomery County home.
Then, Steele went on, Cosby proceeded to digitally penetrate Constand, who had been incapacitated and had only a “blurry” realization of what was happening. “When somebody is drugged, they do not have the ability… to consent,” he said.
Most of yesterday was dominated by a closed-door hearing on defense efforts to replace one of the jurors who, according to a motion filed late Friday, had made it clear during jury selection last week that he has “a fixed opinion about Mr. Cosby’s guilt in this case.”
While Judge Steven T. O’Neill did not announce a ruling, all 12 jurors — along with six alternates — were in court for the opening statement.
Outside the courthouse, the day began with an unusual greeting for Cosby: a topless woman tore off her leather jacket in protest against the entertainer once known as “America’s Dad.” The District Attorney’s Office announced that the woman, an actress who had appeared on The Cosby Show, had been charged with disorderly conduct.
Constand is just one of the more than 50 women who have said they were sexually assaulted by the once-beloved entertainer over decades. But her accusation is the only one to force him into a criminal trial. The charges were filed just days before the statute of limitations was due to expire.
The judge has allowed prosecutors to call up to five of the other accusers, and Steele told the jury that he will show that other such incidents were part of a “plan, scheme or design” that will help reinforce Constand’s testimony.
Cosby, now 80, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
This time around, Cosby has a new defense team led by Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges back in 2005.