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Prosecutors portray Bill Cosby as a serial predator as jurors prepare to weigh comedian’s fate

Criminal charges against Bill Cosby in Pennsylvania, Norristown, USA - 24 Apr 2018
Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, arrive at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.
(Tracie Van Auken / EPA/Shutterstock)

The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial was poised to begin deliberating after prosecutors on Tuesday portrayed the 80-year-old former TV star as a serial predator who drugged and molested a woman 14 years ago. The defense called Cosby’s accuser a “pathological liar” who was seeking a big payday.

The first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era pitted Cosby, the beloved comedian whose career and good-guy reputation were destroyed by a barrage of allegations involving drugs and sex, against a former Temple University women’s basketball administrator who testified that he gave her pills and violated her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion.

Five other women got on the witness stand and testified the same thing had happened to them.

“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over. It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan told jurors in a passionate closing argument that stretched more than three hours and was delivered by two prosecutors.

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The defense urged jurors to acquit Cosby on charges he assaulted Andrea Constand, his chief accuser, saying they were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence.”

Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison. The jury at his first trial deliberated for more than 52 hours over six days last year without reaching a verdict.

Defense attorneys Tom Mesereau and Kathleen Bliss said in their closing argument that Constand consented to sexual activity, then leveled false accusations against the “Cosby Show” star so she could sue him and extract a big settlement.

Constand received nearly $3.4 million from Cosby more than a decade ago — a settlement that Mesereau argued was “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time.”

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“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” said Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case. “You are.”

Cosby’s wife of 54 years looked on from the gallery as his lawyers pleaded with the jury to clear him, the first time she has attended the trial. Camille Cosby, 74, had stayed away as the prosecution built its case that her husband maintained a sordid double life, plying women with drugs and preying on them sexually.

Before the jury came in, she went to the defense table and put her arm around Cosby, who is legally blind. They embraced, smiled and chatted, and he gave her a peck on the cheek.

When it was the prosecution’s turn to argue, Camille Cosby left the courtroom, and Constand entered.

Constand, 45, alleges Cosby knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her in January 2004. Her account was bolstered by the testimony of five other women who took the stand and said Cosby had drugged and assaulted them too — including one woman who asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”

The defense ripped into the other accusers Tuesday, saying they were motivated by the prospect of money and fame to fabricate their accounts.

After last year’s hung jury, the defense team also mounted a far more aggressive effort to stoke doubts about Constand’s credibility and raise questions about whether Cosby’s arrest was even legal.

Their star witness was Marguerite Jackson, a former Temple University colleague of Constand’s who testified that Constand spoke of framing a high-profile person for the purpose of filing a lawsuit.

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Cosby has said he gave Constand 1½ tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax before what he called a consensual encounter.

Kristen Feden, another prosecutor, bristled at what she called the defense’s “horrible character assassination” of Constand and the other women.

She called Cosby the true con artist — wresting that label from Cosby’s lawyers, who had applied it to Constand throughout the two-week trial.

“Yes, you did hear about a con,” Feden said, her voice rising as she moved toward Cosby and pointed at him. “The perpetrator of that con is this man, sitting right here.”

The defense highlighted more than a dozen inconsistencies in what Constand has said over the years. Cosby’s lawyers also painstakingly reviewed phone and travel records for Cosby and Constand, as well as a schedule for the Temple women’s basketball team, saying they are proof the alleged assault couldn’t have happened when she says it did.

Prosecutors have noted that Cosby’s travel records have large gaps in time.

In arguing over when Cosby’s encounter with Constand took place, Cosby’s lawyers sought to suggest that the comedian was charged after the 12-year statute of limitations for prosecuting him had run out.

Bliss argued that Cosby, once revered as America’s dad, was an innocent man caught up in the “emotion and anger” of the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct. Cosby was arrested years before #MeToo became a cultural force and took down famous men like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Sen. Al Franken.

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Bliss also suggested that Constand and Cosby were having an affair, and that she was the aggressor, “cavorting around with a married man old enough to be her grandfather.”

“There’s no doubt that something was going on here,” Bliss said. “There’s no doubt there was love in the making.”

Wearing sunglasses in the courtroom, Cosby’s wife smirked and pursed her lips a few times but otherwise listened quietly.


UPDATES:

3:40 p.m.: The story was updated with the prosecution’s closing arguments

10:40 a.m.: The story was updated with the defense’s closing arguments.

The story was originally published at 7:35 a.m.


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