Cosby sexual assault trial begins, faces up to 10 years in prison
Prosecutors to jury: Don’t confuse TV dad with comedian
NORRISTOWN, PA. | Bill Cosby went on trial Monday on charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman more than a decade ago, with a prosecutor warning the jury not to fall into the trap of confusing the 79-year-old comedian with the beloved family man he played on TV.
Mr. Cosby used his power and fame to violate an employee of Temple University’s basketball program, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said in her opening statement.
The TV star previously admitted under oath that he gave Andrea Constand pills and touched her genitals as she lay on his couch at his suburban Philadelphia mansion, the prosecutor said.
“She couldn’t say no,” Ms. Feden said. “She can’t move, she can’t talk. Completely paralyzed. Frozen. Lifeless.”
Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle immediately attacked what he said were inconsistencies in Ms. Constand’s story, disputed that Ms. Constand was incapacitated, and made the case that she and Mr. Cosby, who was married, had a romantic relationship. Mr. McMonagle said Mr. Cosby gave her the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl only after she complained she couldn’t sleep.
Mr. McMonagle said Ms. Constand changed the date of the encounter from mid-March to mid-January of 2004. And he said Ms. Constand initially told police that she and Mr. Cosby had never spoken afterward, when, in fact, phone records show the two talked 72 times after mid-January — with 53 of those calls initiated by Ms. Constand.
Mr. Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He could get 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
The TV star carried a wooden cane and grabbed his spokesman’s arm for support as he walked past dozens of cameras into the courthouse. Mr. Cosby’s wife, Camille, was not in court.
But actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on the top-rated “Cosby Show” in the 1980s and ’90s, was at his side as he made his way into the building.
Mr. Cosby smiled but said nothing when someone asked how he was feeling.
Ms. Pulliam told reporters she came to the trial to support her TV dad.
“I want to be the person that I would like to have if the tables were turned,” she said. “Right now it’s the jury’s job and the jury’s decision to determine guilt or innocence. It’s not mine or anyone else’s.”
Ms. Constand, 44, of the Toronto area, is expected to take the stand this week and tell her story in public for the first time. A woman who claims Mr. Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996 will also testify in an effort by prosecutors to show that he had pattern of behavior.
Mr. Cosby built a good-guy reputation as a father and family man, on screen and off, during his extraordinary 50-year career in entertainment. He created TV characters, most notably Dr. Cliff Huxtable, with crossover appeal among blacks and whites alike. His TV shows, movies and comedy tours earned him an estimated $400 million. Then a deposition unsealed in 2015 in a lawsuit brought by Ms. Constand revealed that Mr. Cosby had a long history of extramarital liaisons with young women and that he obtained quaaludes in the 1970s to give to women before sex. Dozens of women soon came forward to say he had drugged and assaulted them.
The statute of limitations for prosecuting Mr. Cosby had run out in nearly every case. This is the only one to result in criminal charges against the comic.
Ms. Feden told jurors that celebrities like Mr. Cosby are seen as “larger than life.”
“We think we really know them,” she said. “In reality, we only have a glimpse of who they really are.”
Prosecutors had wanted to call as many as 13 of Mr. Cosby’s more than 60 accusers as witnesses, but Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that only Ms. Constand and the other woman could take the stand.
Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who showed up for the first day of the trial, told reporters she is hopeful that “there will be justice in this case.”
Ms. Allred represents several of Mr. Cosby’s accusers, including the one who will testify for the prosecution — a woman who worked for the comedian’s agent at the William Morris agency.
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial with Keshia Knight Pulliam (right) at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Monday. Ms. Pulliam played Rudy on “The Cosby Show,” which ran from 1984 to 1992.
Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred said that she is hopeful that “there will be justice in this case.” She represents several of Bill Cosby’s accusers, including the one who will testify at the trial.