Bill Cosby’s sexual mind-set is revealed in a Pennsylvania courtroom

Attorney Gloria Allred speaks to members of the news media on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse during Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa., on Thursday.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

An unusually specific picture of Bill Cosby’s recent approach to sex — painted in his own words — emerged in a Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday, as Cosby’s description of his actions with sexual-assault accuser Andrea Constand over a period of several years was disclosed at his criminal trial.

It portrayed the entertainer — before the former Temple University basketball staffer accused him of drugging and abusing her in January 2004 — attempting to woo Constand with dinners and fireside moments at his home so he could engage in heavy petting, but not intercourse, outside his long-standing marriage.

“[I wanted it to] lead to some kind of permission or no permission or how you would get to wherever you’re going to wind up,” Cosby was cited as saying.

He was asked what kind of permission he was referring to. “Permission to whatever two people will accept,” he replied obliquely.


The words were part of Cosby’s responses to police officers and a questioner in a civil deposition, both from 2005, and unveiled Thursday at the trial. They were read out by law enforcement witnesses called by the prosecution, including Richard Schaffer, a sergeant who had interviewed Cosby in Pennsylvania.

Together the two portions of testimony reveal the sexual predilections of someone who, despite his place at the center of a major controversy, has rarely been heard from directly.

Maybe more important, they illuminate a scheming sexual mind-set that the prosecution hopes will damn Cosby in the jury’s eyes — even as the defense believes the material can provide a plausible alternative to Constand’s narrative of a sexual predator.

Indeed, one consequence of the day’s testimony, legal experts say, is that Cosby was able to get his story out without subjecting himself to the glare of a cross-examination. That reduced the odds of him taking the stand from very small to virtually nonexistent. But whatever the judicial effect, the testimony is sure to shed light on — and raise questions about — the sexual habits of one of the most polarizing American celebrities in recent memory.

Cosby met Constand through a Temple University contact in 2002. His reason for wanting to get to know her better was simple, he said in the deposition: “She was good-looking.”

He gave her his phone number in Pennsylvania, a landline that was not monitored or answered by his wife, who lived with him primarily at another of the couple’s residences, in New York. “Because it was in Philadelphia,” was Cosby’s terse response when asked why he provided that number. He and Constand would then, he said in the accounts, meet at his home in the city’s wealthy Elkins Park suburb or at social functions he invited her to.

According to the testimony, Cosby had tried — with some success — to have sexual encounters with Constand long before the night of the alleged attack. At his home, the two would kiss. He would touch her bare midriff, her buttocks and, on one occasion, he said he put his fingers into her vagina. He described moving slowly in that situation and waiting for a response. When he received none, he proceeded.

“I’m giving Andrea a chance to say yes or no in an area that’s right there in the question zone,” he said of that instance, which was several months before the night of the alleged attack and strongly contradicted Constand’s testimony that she had never participated in any amorous interactions with Cosby.

Feeling he had obtained her consent, Cosby went ahead, and he said he believed Constand had eventually reached an orgasm. He felt both had a “glow” from that encounter.

Meanwhile, she was touching him through his pants, but he did not achieve climax, nor did he wish to, he said.

“Was there any reason you didn’t ask her” to bring you to that point? Cosby was asked at the deposition.

“Because I thought she had, and that was enough for me,” he replied.

On another occasion, at a Foxwoods hotel in Connecticut, “we did not kiss, [but] I held her in my arms and we talked” for more than two hours, he said. Cosby told police that neither he nor Constand wanted a serious relationship but that they were growing close both socially and romantically.

That set up the events of that January 2004 night.

According to Cosby, Constand had come over at his invitation. She was immediately tense when she entered through the house’s back door, he said. “She was talking about stress … about relaxation. Andrea was trying to learn to relax the shoulders.” He said that prompted him to go upstairs and bring down pills — Benadryl, from the same supply he normally brought on the road with him to help with sleep.

Cosby said she wasn’t paralyzed by the pills, as she has testified.

“Did she ever tell you she was paralyzed by the Benadryl?” Schaffer had asked in his interview.

“No,” Cosby said.

“Was Andrea conscious?” the detective continued.

“Yes,” Cosby said.

He described the scenario. “She’s on top of me, with my knee between her legs,” he said. It was she who willingly guided his hand from that point and seemed physically aroused, he said.

“Did she tell you to stop?” Schaffer asked.

“No,” Cosby replied.

He said his motivations were more than just sexual. “Maybe an orgasm … will help her relax,” he noted in the deposition, prompting the questioner to ask, “You’re trying to get her to sleep with an orgasm?”

“I didn’t say sleep,” he replied. “I said relaxation.”

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The account contradicts testimony that Constand had given in court over the previous two days, in which she not only said that she had shown no romantic interest in Cosby but that she previously had rebuffed any attempt at sexual contact. She also said she was barely conscious after ingesting the pills that January night and did not want any sexual contact then either.

“In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move or my legs to move, but I was frozen and those messages didn’t get there,” she told the jury.

The defense is seeking to turn the tide after several days of strong testimony from Constand and her mother, which painted Cosby as a friend and mentor who made sudden and unwanted advances, culminating in what Constand describes as an assault that night.

How the new testimony will play with the jury was a subject of debate among experts — a question heightened by the fact that Constand has ardently maintained there was no romance in the months leading up to the attack. That position magnified the impact of the eventual alleged attack but, with Cosby contradicting it, forces jurors to choose starkly between the narratives.

Even when the facts are not in dispute, the shading often is. Cosby, for instance, said in the police report that he had attempted to kiss Constand’s breasts under her shirt on a previous occasion but stopped when she told him she didn’t want that. It was an eye-of-the-beholder moment. The defense highlighted it to show that Cosby had a history of respecting Constand’s boundaries.

But the prosecution said it demonstrated that Constand had long been communicating her resistance to Cosby’s advances — undermining his claim that she was OK with digital penetration.

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8:45 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details from Cosby’s deposition.

4:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with afternoon testimony and Cosby statements.

This article was originally posted at 11:20 a.m.