NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Two strikingly different portraits of Bill Cosby were sketched out Tuesday during dramatic closing arguments in his sexual assault retrial. In one, he is the victim of a con artist who framed him. In the other, he is the con artist who set up women, gave them alcohol or pills to knock them out, and then molested them.
“The perpetrator of that con was that man,” said prosecutor Kristen Feden, pointing to Cosby, who was seated quietly at the defense table. Later, she chastised the entertainer for laughing at one point during her final argument. “There’s nothing funny about that, Mr. Cosby,” she said, her voice rising.
The jury of seven men and five women seemed to be listening intently throughout a day of spirited summations on the 12th day of the entertainer’s hard-fought retrial in suburban Philadelphia. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Wednesday after Judge Steven O’Neill instructs them on the law.
Cosby, now 80, is accused of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in January 2004 while she was the operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where Cosby was a popular alum and major supporter. She was in the front row of the courtroom for the prosecution’s closing arguments.
Cosby, meanwhile, kissed and embraced his wife, Camille, before the start of the morning session. It marked the first time she was present during the trial, but she had departed by the time the prosecution’s closing arguments began.
The once-revered entertainer is the only major celebrity to face a jury in the heated atmosphere of the #MeToo movement, as dozens of rich and powerful men in Hollywood and the media have been accused of sexual harassment or assault.
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He has pleaded not guilty and contends the sexual encounter with Constand was consensual. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
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 that is slightly younger overall and has been sequestered at a hotel since testimony began April 9 in Montgomery County.
The prosecution and the defense also addressed the #MeToo movement, with defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau asking the jury to “stand up against the rumor, gossip and shallowness” of the heated atmosphere.
“That’s what our country is filled with at this moment,” said Mesereau in a 70-minute summation delivered in a hushed courtroom.
Defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss told the jury that not every accusation is believable.
“Yes, we do have to deal with sexual assault. We do. It’s a worldwide problem, no doubt about it, just like we have to deal with sexual harassment,” said Bliss. But “questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim,” she went on. “Mob rule is not due process.”
Bliss criticized the testimony of the “cast of five” women, who testified for the prosecution that they also had been sexually assaulted by Cosby.
She especially derided former reality star Janice Dickinson, who said that Cosby assaulted her back in 1982, as a “failed starlet” and “aged-out model” who was unworthy of belief.
Feden then slammed Bliss for her “character assassination” of the women, calling her remarks “utterly shameful.”
And prosecutor M. Stewart Ryan accused the defense of trying “to shame, to blame and to re-victimize. We’ve seen that repeated throughout the course of this trial.”
He urged the jury to convict the entertainer. “It’s time for each and every one of you to stand with Andrea Constand and look that man in the eye and tell him the truth about what he did,” said Ryan.
Mesereau at times seemed to scoff at the prosecution’s case. He urged jurors to reject the testimony of Constand.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” he said.
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.
Mesereau focused with laser-like intensity on records of phone calls between Cosby and Constand in January 2004 – the month she says he assaulted her – and said the incident could not have happened in January.
He told jurors that Constand testified that, on the night in question, she drove to his Elkins Park, Pa., home and called him from her car to tell him she had arrived. But Mesereau went through the records of the phone calls and said that there were no phone calls that entire month from Constand’s cell phone to Cosby’s home.
Mesereau told jurors that Constand, who received a settlement of nearly $3.4 million after filing a lawsuit against Cosby, was out for his money.
“Bill Cosby got conned big time,” said Mesereau, who said that the entertainer is an 80-year-old man “on trial for his life… She is a con artist.”
Bliss told jurors they should rely heavily on the testimony of key defense witness Marguerite Jackson, who said that Constand 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.
Jackson told the jury that Constand 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.
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 eventually filed a lawsuit against Cosby and received the settlement.
She said when she went to his home in Montgomery County in early 2004, he offered her three pills to help her relax. Believing the pills to be some kind of an herbal remedy, she said she took them because she trusted him, and soon became incapacitated. Then, she said, she felt his fingers inside of her.
“I couldn’t fight him off,” said Constand.