NORRISTOWN, Pa. – A key defense witness in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby testified Wednesday that the woman who says she was molested by the entertainer once confided that she could set up a high-profile person in order to get money to go back to school and start a business.
Testifying as the second defense witness, Marguerite Jackson told the jury that Andrea Constand, who was operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, made the comment when they were rooming together during a team road trip to Rhode Island in February 2004.
Jackson, who at the time was an academic counselor for the basketball team, told the jury that they were watching TV when a news report came on about some well-known figure being accused of sexual assault in a civil case. Constand, she said, told her that “she had something similar happen to her” but had not reported the incident because she couldn’t prove it.
Jackson said she asked Constand repeatedly whether something like that had actually happened, and that Constand finally replied, “no, it didn’t” but that she “could say it did” in order to get money.
The defense has portrayed Constand as a scheming liar who was out for money from the famous – and rich – entertainer. So Jackson, who still works at Temple, is critical to the effort to undermine the credibility of Constand, who has testified that Cosby drugged and molested her at his home outside Philadelphia in January 2004.
Under questioning by defense attorney Kathleen Bliss, Jackson said that Constand at first remarked that something similar to the news report had happened to her, but when pressed about it, eventually admitted that nothing had happened but that she could say it happened. Jackson said Constand then said she could get “that money,” quit her job, go back to school and start a business.
“That’s exactly what she said,” Jackson told the jury.
She said she provided a statement to the Cosby team after she found out that criminal charges were filed.
“Are you being paid for your testimony?” Bliss asked.
“No,” replied Jackson.
“Has anyone asked you to say certain things?” asked Bliss.
“No,” Jackson again replied.
In her testimony, Constand told the jury that she left Temple shortly after Cosby assaulted her and returned home to Canada, where she went to school for massage therapy. She also received a settlement of nearly $3.4 million in the civil lawsuit she filed against Cosby.
Prosecutor M. Stewart Ryan carefully questioned Jackson about two statements she gave about her alleged conversation with Constand, suggesting that her second statement, with Bliss taking it down, contained more details than were in her initial statement to a private investigator for Cosby.
He also asked her why there were expense reports submitted for trips she had taken with the team in 2003 – but not in 2004, the year she said she had gone to the away game in Rhode Island and shared a room with Constand.
The prosecution, meanwhile, essentially wrapped up its case Wednesday morning, although the jury is expected to hear on Thursday from both a prosecution toxicology expert and a defense toxicology expert. Depending on the number of defense witnesses, the case could go to the jury next week.
Cosby, now 80, is the only major celebrity to face a jury in the heated atmosphere of the #MeToo movement. He is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, has pleaded not guilty and contends the sexual encounter with Constand was consensual.
Cosby’s first trial ended in June when a different jury deadlocked on all charges after more than 50 hours of deliberations. He is now facing a jury of seven men and five women selected in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia.
Constand testified that she had gotten to know Cosby when she worked at Temple, where Cosby was a famous alum and major booster.
She said when she went to his home in Montgomery County in early 2004, he offered her three pills to help her relax. She said she believed they were some kind of an herbal remedy to help with stress, so she took them because she trusted him, and soon became incapacitated. Then, she said, she felt his fingers inside of her.
Constand is one of dozens of women who have accused Cosby of drugging and then assaulting them — but she is the only one whose allegation became the focus of a criminal case.