Pros­e­cu­tors: Cosby sex-as­sault con­vic­tion will stand

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - By Michael R. Sisak

NOR­RIS­TOWN, PA. » In the tense mo­ments be­fore a jury con­victed Bill Cosby of sex­ual as­sault, the pros­e­cu­tor who had branded him a “con man” and called him out for laugh­ing dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments started to worry about the global im­pli­ca­tions if the #MeToo era’s first big trial went the other way.

Ac­cuser An­drea Con­stand’s al­le­ga­tions that Cosby had drugged and mo­lested her at his sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia man­sion in 2004, re­vived out of nearly a decade of dor­mancy by an­other co­me­dian’s vi­ral joke, had co­a­lesced into a move­ment of women who said he vi­o­lated them, too.

Pros­e­cu­tor Kris­ten Fe­den told The As­so­ci­ated Press she was “ner­vous for An­drea and for sex crime vic­tims as a whole” at Cosby’s re­trial.

“I felt like this ver­dict could dic­tate some­thing more,” Fe­den said. “If they found him not guilty, I felt like they were feed­ing into ev­ery char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion on sex crime vic­tims.”

Fe­den and pros­e­cu­tor Ste­wart Ryan spoke to the AP on Sat­ur­day about the nearly three-year jour­ney from reopening the Cosby case to last Thurs­day’s ver­dict, how they re­struc­tured their ap­proach af­ter last year’s hung jury and the sac­ri­fices they faced along the way.

Cosby, 80, is now a pris­oner in his own home and faces the prospect of spend­ing the rest of his life be­hind bars as he awaits sen­tenc­ing within the next three months on three counts of ag­gra­vated in­de­cent as­sault. He has main­tained his in­no­cence. His pub­li­cist has de­clared his con­vic­tion a “pub­lic lynch­ing,” and his lawyers have vowed to ap­peal.

But Fe­den and Ryan said they are con­fi­dent Cosby’s con­vic­tion will stand.

Pros­e­cu­tors started think­ing about a re­trial as last year’s de­lib­er­a­tions wore on for six days, Ryan said.

“We could kind of see the writ­ing on the wall with the first jury,” he said.

Two days af­ter Cosby’s con­vic­tion, law books and pa­pers were still strewn on a long ta­ble in the war room where pros­e­cu­tors plot­ted their strat­egy: lead­ing off with an ex­pert to ed­u­cate the jury in vic­tim be­hav­ior, suc­cess­fully fight­ing to call five ad­di­tional ac­cusers and fend­ing off the de­fense’s al­le­ga­tions that Con­stand was a scam­mer fram­ing Cosby for a big pay­day.

The ad­di­tional ac­cusers al­lowed pros­e­cu­tors to un­cloak the man once revered as Amer­ica’s Dad as a ma­nip­u­la­tive preda­tor who used his built-in trust to trick women into tak­ing pow­er­ful in­tox­i­cants so he could vi­o­late them. One woman point­edly called Cosby a “se­rial rapist,” and an­other asked him through her tears, “You re­mem­ber, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”

Fe­den said she felt “that needed to be ex­posed.”

“That was the most sick­en­ing part of this all,” she said. “When peo­ple in po­si­tions of power use that power to vic­tim­ize peo­ple, I find that to be be­yond dis­gust­ing.”

Then-District At­tor­ney Risa Vetri Fer­man re­opened the Cosby in­ves­ti­ga­tion in July 2015 af­ter a fed­eral judge, act­ing on a re­quest from the AP, un­sealed por­tions of Cosby’s de­po­si­tion tes­ti­mony from a civil law­suit he set­tled with Con­stand in 2006 for $3.4 mil­lion. In the tes­ti­mony, which was read to ju­rors at both tri­als, he de­scribed giv­ing quaaludes to women be­fore sex in the 1970s and his en­coun­ters with Con­stand, a Tem­ple Univer­sity women’s bas­ket­ball ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Ryan likened Cosby’s de­scrip­tion of a pur­ported sex­ual en­counter with Con­stand to “read­ing some dis­gust­ing pornog­ra­phy novel.” He said the tes­ti­mony, far more ex­plicit than what Cosby said in his lone po­lice state­ment, showed “ex­actly what’s go­ing on” in his mind.

Fe­den ques­tioned Con­stand. Ryan cross-examined star de­fense wit­ness Mar­guerite Jack­son. To­gether they de­liv­ered a clos­ing ar­gu­ment that wrested the “con artist” la­bel from the de­fense and pushed back at sug­ges­tions the case was out­side the statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

Fe­den, a point guard in her bas­ket­ball days, said she piv­oted im­me­di­ately when she saw Cosby out of the cor­ner of her eye, smirk­ing as she spoke about the sim­i­lar­i­ties in Cosby’s con­duct with Con­stand and the five other ac­cusers.

“He’s laugh­ing at the cost of these women? And then An­drea Con­stand’s in the court­room? I’m furious,” Fe­den said. “No one in this court­room is laugh­ing. I un­der­stand that you’re a co­me­dian, but this is not funny. This is not your stage. This is what you did wrong.”

Judge Steven O’Neill’s court crier called Ryan with the news that a ver­dict was in around lunchtime, about 14 hours af­ter ju­rors started de­lib­er­at­ing. Ryan quickly re­layed the news to his boss, District At­tor­ney Kevin Steele.

He told Con­stand, who tes­ti­fied that she wanted jus­tice, and he called Fe­den, who had been so ded­i­cated to see­ing the case through that she worked out a deal to stay as a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor af­ter leav­ing for the Philadel­phia law firm Stradley Ronon.

Fe­den and Ryan spent months of long days work­ing on the case away from their fam­i­lies: she, her hus­band and their two young sons; he, his wife and their 9-month-old son.

Ryan said the boy, born soon af­ter the first trial, lifted him from hard days with a bright smile. Fe­den said she of­ten thought of her late aunt, an OB-GYN, who had cham­pi­oned women and her ca­reer as a pros­e­cu­tor.

Cosby’s case drew world­wide at­ten­tion. The court­room gallery was filled with re­porters, and cam­eras lined the rail­ings out­side the court­house. But to Fe­den and Ryan, the man known for play­ing Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” was just an­other preda­tor whose vic­tims were fi­nally be­ing heard.

“There was some­one who had been sex­u­ally as­saulted, some­one who de­served to hear 12 peo­ple say that not only do we be­lieve you but we’re go­ing to hold the per­son who did it ac­count­able,” Ryan said.

MATT SLOCUM — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, Bill Cosby ar­rives Court­house in Nor­ris­town, Pa. for his sex­ual as­sault trial at the Mont­gomery County

CLEM MUR­RAY — THE PHILADEL­PHIA IN­QUIRER VIA AP, FILE

In this ile photo, M. Ste­wart Ryan, left, and Kris­ten Fe­den leave court af­ter a pre­trial hear­ing for Bill Cosby, in Nor­ris­town, Pa. Ryan and Fe­den, the pros­e­cu­tors who put Bill Cosby away, said Sun­day they’re con­fi­dent the con­vic­tion at his sub­ur­ban...

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