Deja vu for Cosby ac­cuser

Sunday News - - WORLD -

PHILADEL­PHIA Bill Cosby’s chief ac­cuser has taken the wit­ness stand for the sec­ond time to tell a story of mo­lesta­tion and bro­ken trust, de­scrib­ing for ju­rors how the co­me­dian knocked her out with three blue pills and then sex­u­ally as­saulted her at his home.

‘‘I was weak. I was limp, and I just could not fight him off,’’ said An­drea Con­stand, who found her­self in the same court­room yes­ter­day less than a year after a jury was un­able to reach a ver­dict on charges against Cosby.

Her har­row­ing ac­count of the events in 2004 was con­sis­tent with the one she gave at last year’s trial in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia, and ju­rors watched in­tently and scrib­bled notes as she told how Cosby, the good-guy celebrity she viewed as a men­tor and friend, had be­trayed her.

‘‘Ms Con­stand, why are you here?’’ pros­e­cu­tor Kris­ten Fe­den asked. ‘‘For jus­tice,’’ Con­stand replied.

The de­fence has blasted Con­stand as a ‘‘con artist’’ who lev­elled false ac­cu­sa­tions against Cosby as part of a scheme to get money from him.

Dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion yes­ter­day, Cosby lawyer Tom Me­sereau went through a binder of Con­stand’s po­lice state­ments and prior tes­ti­mony as he tried to poke holes in her story. But the jury heard only mi­nor dis­crep­an­cies between what she said in the past and her ac­count on the wit­ness stand.

After telling ju­rors in his open­ing state­ment that Con­stand had oper­ated a Ponzi scheme while run­ning women’s bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions at Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity, Me­sereau’s ev­i­dence was a cu­tand-paste email that Con­stand sent for a friend years ago. She tes­ti­fied that she barely re­mem­bered it.

Un­der ques­tion­ing by the pros­e­cu­tion, Con­stand said Cosby of­fered her pills and a sip of wine after she said she was ‘‘stressed’’ about telling the Tem­ple bas­ket­ball coach of her plans to leave to study mas­sage ther­apy in her na­tive Canada. She said Cosby, a Tem­ple alum­nus and pow­er­ful trustee, called the pills ‘‘your friends’’ and told her they would ‘‘help take the edge off’’.

In­stead, Con­stand said, the pills made her black out. She awoke to find the ac­tor known as ‘‘Amer­ica’s Dad’’ pen­e­trat­ing her with his fin­gers, touch­ing her breast and putting her hand on his pe­nis.

She said she wanted Cosby to stop but couldn’t say any­thing. She tried mov­ing her arms and legs but couldn’t do that ei­ther.

Con­stand said she awoke between 4am and 5am to find her bra up around her neck and her pants half un­zipped. She said Cosby stopped her as she went to leave: ‘‘All he said was there’s a muf­fin and tea on the ta­ble and then, ‘All right’, and then I left.’’

After­wards, Con­stand said, ‘‘I was re­ally hu­mil­i­ated. I was in shock. And I was re­ally con­fused’’.

The now 80-year-old en­ter­tainer has said he gave Con­stand the cold medicine Be­nadryl and that she con­sented to a sex­ual en­counter.

Con­stand tes­ti­fied that she de­cided to re­port the as­sault to po­lice in Jan­uary 2005, about a year later. She was jarred into ac­tion by a night­mare and an in­creas­ing aware­ness of con­sent is­sues from her on­go­ing mas­sage ther­apy train­ing. ‘‘I didn’t want it to hap­pen to any­body else, what had hap­pened to me,’’ she said.

She said she was ‘‘very scared’’ about go­ing to the po­lice be­cause Cosby was ‘‘a Tem­ple trustee. A very pow­er­ful man. An en­ter­tainer. A very fa­mous per­son’’.

Con­stand’s al­le­ga­tion is the only one among dozens against AP Cosby that has led to crim­i­nal charges. If convicted, the for­mer TV star best known for his toprat­ing fam­ily sit­com The Cosby Show faces up to 10 years in prison on each of three re­lated ag­gra­vated in­de­cent as­sault charges.

A jury dead­locked after last year’s trial, un­able to reach a ver­dict after more than 52 hours of de­lib­er­a­tions over six days.

For this trial, pros­e­cu­tors have had the ad­van­tage of putting Con­stand on the wit­ness stand after a pa­rade of other ac­cusers who told ju­rors that Cosby used the same tac­tics on them: prey­ing on women who saw him as a men­tor, de­bil­i­tat­ing them with pills or al­co­hol, and then vi­o­lat­ing them when they were un­able to fight back. Just one other ac­cuser was per­mit­ted to tes­tify at the first trial.

The de­fence has called the other ac­cusers ir­rel­e­vant, urg­ing ju­rors to fo­cus only on the charges that Cosby is fac­ing.

Me­sereau, best known for win­ning an ac­quit­tal in Michael Jack­son’s 2005 child mo­lesta­tion case, told ju­rors in his open­ing state­ment that Con­stand was a pau­per who stiffed her room­mates on bills and racked up big credit card debt un­til she ‘‘hit the jack­pot’’ in 2006, when Cosby paid her US$3.4 mil­lion to set­tle her civil law­suit over the as­sault al­le­ga­tion.

Cosby’s lawyers say Con­stand out­lined her get-rich scheme to a Tem­ple col­league, Mar­guerite Jack­son. The de­fence plans to call Jack­son as a wit­ness and says she will tes­tify that Con­stand mused about fram­ing a celebrity be­fore she lodged sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions against Cosby in 2005.

Jack­son, a long­time Tem­ple of­fi­cial, has said that she and Con­stand worked closely to­gether, had been friends and had shared ho­tel rooms sev­eral times. She has said Con­stand once com­mented to her about set­ting up a ‘‘high-pro­file per­son’’ and fil­ing a law­suit.

Con­stand tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day that she re­mem­bered hav­ing a ho­tel room to her­self at Tem­ple’s away bas­ket­ball games and did not re­call ever room­ing with Jack­son.

She told the jury she had noth­ing to gain fi­nan­cially by want­ing Cosby locked up, and there was ‘no up­side’’ to her tes­ti­mony.

She said she was hes­i­tant to get in­volved when pros­e­cu­tors re­opened the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2015, say­ing she feared a flood of me­dia at­ten­tion and pain for her loved ones, but de­cided to co­op­er­ate be­cause it was the ‘‘right thing to do.’’

‘‘This was a mat­ter that was tug­ging at my heart, be­cause I had moved on and I had healed an old wound and now I could slowly feel this wound open­ing up again,’’ she said. AP

Bill Cosby signs a book for a fam­ily as he leaves the court­house in Norristown, Penn­syl­va­nia yes­ter­day dur­ing a re­cess at his sex­ual as­sault trial.

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