Cosby ap­pears in good spir­its as sex­ual as­sault trial winds down

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

NORRISTOWN, US: Bill Cosby’s sex­ual as­sault trial in Penn­syl­va­nia has moved at a brisk pace and pro­duced grip­ping tes­ti­mony – along with mo­ments of lev­ity. The case could reach the jury early this week.

The age­ing Hol­ly­wood icon is charged with drug­ging and mo­lest­ing a young woman he be­friended through his alma mater, Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity, in 2004.

The trial in­volves only ac­cuser An­drea Con­stand, al­though about 60 women have ac­cused Cosby of sim­i­lar mis­con­duct over his long ca­reer as an ac­tor, co­me­dian, author and, as one judge said, “pub­lic moral­ist”.

Con­stand went to the po­lice in 2005, but the lo­cal pros­e­cu­tor de­clined to press charges. Au­thor­i­ties re­opened her com­plaint in 2015 after learn­ing Cosby had tes­ti­fied to giv­ing var­i­ous women wine, pills or even Quaaludes be­fore sex.

Prose­cu­tors called 12 wit­nesses over five days be­fore rest­ing on Fri­day.

Cosby, 79, could take the stand to­day, when the de­fence starts its case, al­though most court ob­servers call that risky given the cross-ex­am­i­na­tion he would face. Here’s a re­cap of the trial’s first week and a look at what’s ahead.

HOW DID AC­CUSER AN­DREA CON­STAND DO ON THE STAND?

The case largely rests on the cred­i­bil­ity of ac­cuser Con­stand, a for­mer pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player who worked at Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity from 2002 to 2004 as di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for the women’s team. Calm and di­rect, she re­mained un­rat­tled over more than seven hours of tes­ti­mony over two days. She oc­ca­sion­ally grew tear­ful when dis­cussing the sex­ual en­counter, say­ing she was semi-con­scious and could not ob­ject.

She said Cosby had “never said a word to me” to con­vey his in­ter­est in her, al­though she ac­knowl­edged she had twice be­fore re­buffed his ad­vances. De­spite that, she said, she did not feel threat­ened and ac­cepted his in­vi­ta­tion to come to his house to dis­cuss her ca­reer that night and trusted him when he of­fered her three pills for stress.

Con­stand, 44, now a mas­sage ther­a­pist and yoga en­thu­si­ast in her na­tive Toronto, put her hands to­gether in a quick Na­maste pose when she fin­ished her first day of tes­ti­mony and smiled broadly as she left the stand the next day.

HOW HAS THE DE­FENCE FOUGHT BACK?

The de­fence has ham­mered home in­con­sis­ten­cies in Con­stand’s state­ments and in­sists she had a con­sen­sual, ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship with Cosby, who was not only a celebrity but a high-pow­ered trustee at the uni­ver­sity. They stress that she has changed the date of the en­counter from March 16, 2004 to some­time in Jan­uary. They also pored over her phone records to show 73 later phone calls be­tween her and Cosby. Con­stand says she had to re­turn calls from Cosby given her job and his sta­tus on cam­pus.

Cosby’s list of their prior “ro­man­tic” episodes in­cludes a time they spent 15 min­utes rest­ing on a bed to­gether at a casino ho­tel, when Cosby says he held her in his arms but did not kiss her. Con­stand says she sat at the edge of the bed, with one foot on the floor. But Cosby also says in his tes­ti­mony that he had once be­fore put his hand down her pants, and his fin­gers in­side her body, with­out her ob­ject­ing – un­til he tried to kiss her breasts. Con­stand says she pushed him away when he grabbed her zip.

WHAT HAS BEEN COSBY’S DEMEANOUR?

Cosby has ap­peared in good spir­its as he fights charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. He plays to the cam­eras and on­look­ers as he walks in and out of the court each day, wish­ing a fan a happy birth­day or rais­ing his wooden cane to salute well-wish­ers who shout “We love you, Bill Cosby!” and “Hey, hey, hey!,” the catch­phrase from his Fat Al­bert TV show.

It’s a stark con­trast from the fee­ble-look­ing Cosby who hob­bled into his ar­raign­ment after his De­cem­ber 30, 2015, ar­rest. Cosby’s spokesper­son An­drew Wy­att said: “He’s 79 years old and he’s feel­ing good.”

In­side the grand, cen­tu­ry­old court­room, the vet­eran per­former has been mostly sub­dued. As Con­stand and a sec­ond ac­cuser tes­ti­fied, Cosby – who says he’s legally blind – looked down at the de­fence ta­ble or stared to­wards the wit­ness stand, of­ten with a hand across his fore­head. Other times, he con­fers with his lawyers. And when there’s a light mo­ment, he’ll smile and laugh.

WHO’S WITH COSBY IN COURT?

Morn­ings at Cosby’s trial have been a bit like the old show This is Your Life, with col­lege and Hol­ly­wood friends show­ing up to sup­port him and rem­i­nisce.

Keshia Knight Pul­liam, who starred as the youngest daugh­ter on The Cosby Show, walked Cosby into court last week. Sheila Fra­zier, an ac­tress from the 1970s hit movie Su­per­fly, and her hus­band, Cosby hair­styl­ist John Atchi­son, also es­corted Cosby in and out.

Comedic ac­tors Lewis Dix Jr and Joe Torry ap­peared with Cosby on Thurs­day. Cosby’s own fam­ily, how­ever, have been no­tice­ably ab­sent. Wy­att says some of Cosby’s fam­ily will join him in court this week. He says Cosby told wife Camille to stay away so she didn’t have to en­dure the “me­dia cir­cus”.

WHAT’S THE AT­MOS­PHERE LIKE IN COURT?

The mood has been se­ri­ous and the tes­ti­mony of­ten grip­ping, with a few mo­ments of un­planned lev­ity. The gallery in­cludes sev­eral tightly packed rows of re­porters from The New York Times, Va­ri­ety, for­eign out­lets and elsewhere, along with a few Cosby ac­cusers. The pro­ceed­ings turned sober as Con­stand tes­ti­fied over two days.

The light mo­ments in­clude: Con­stand’s brother-in-law strug­gling to re­mem­ber the year he got mar­ried but in­stantly know­ing the day he joined the Toronto po­lice force; her mother tes­ti­fy­ing that she had been truth­ful in telling Cosby that she has a par­rot and telling the court his name is “Ozzie”; and Judge Steven O’Neill bring­ing in an over­sized gavel and promis­ing to use it if things get rowdy after ju­rors asked why he didn’t have one.

O’Neill has been look­ing out for the jury, given that they are se­questered 480km from their homes. For in­stance, he has made sure court doesn’t run late on nights their city’s hockey team, the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins, are play­ing.

PIC­TURE: AP

‘FEEL­ING GOOD’: Bill Cosby ar­rives at the Mont­gomery County Court­house in Norristown, Penn­syl­va­nia, last week.

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