NORRISTOWN, Pa. – Jury deliberations began Wednesday in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby, the first major celebrity to face a jury in the heated atmosphere of the #MeToo movement.
Cosby, now 80, is charged with drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, who was operations manager of the women’s basketball team at Temple University, at his home outside Philadelphia back in January 2004.
The jury began considering the case on the 13th day of the retrial after Montgomery County Court Judge Steven T. O’Neill instructed the panel, along with six alternates, on the law.
Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s publicist, said that Cosby is relaxed and confident that the jury will find him not guilty of all charges. “It’s easy to rest and relax and not worry when you know you haven’t done anything wrong,” said Wyatt.
Cosby, who was once known as “America’s Dad” for his role as the lovable Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” 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 last 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 over all. The jury is composed of seven men and five women, with two African-Americans — the same make-up as last year’s jury.
The deliberations began a day after spirited closing arguments Tuesday, in which Cosby was alternately portrayed as the victim of a con artist and as a serial predator who set up women, gave them alcohol pills to incapacitate them and then sexually assaulted them.
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. The charges against Cosby were filed on Dec. 30, 2015 – just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was due to expire.
The retrial has been marked by heated discord between the prosecution and the defense, with tensions rising in the courtroom and in closed-door discussions with the judge about legal isssues in the case. Cosby’s legal team is led by veteran defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges in 2005.
The once-revered entertainer is the only major celebrity to face a jury amid the shifting cultural awareness of the seriousness of the problem of sexual assault. In less than a year, dozens of rich and powerful men have been accused of sexual harassment or assault as more women have decided to publicly address the issue.
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 blue pills to help her relax. She said she took the pills because she trusted Cosby and believed they were some kind of an herbal relaxant, and soon became incapacitated. Then, she said, she felt his fingers inside of her, but “couldn’t fight him off.”