Bill Cosby’s lawyers urged a jury Tuesday to acquit the 80-year-old comedian of sexual assault charges they said were based on “flimsy, silly, ridiculous evidence,” arguing he was falsely accused by a “pathological liar” scheming for a big payday.
The first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era was nearly in the hands of a jury after the defence declared that Cosby himself was the victim of an elaborate frame-up.
Lawyers Tom Mesereau and Kathleen Bliss said in their closing argument that chief accuser Andrea Constand consented to a sexual encounter at Cosby’s home in suburban Philadelphia, then levelled false accusations against the “Cosby Show” star so she could sue him and extract a big settlement.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar, members of the jury,” Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau said. “You are.”
Prosecutors were to deliver their closing argument next. The jury was expected to get the case later in the day.
The former TV star was accompanied Tuesday for the first time in the trial by his wife of 54 years, who sat in the gallery as his lawyers pleaded with the jury to clear him. Camille Cosby, 74, had been absent from the courtroom as the prosecution built its case that Cosby maintained a sordid double life that involved preying on women sexually.
Before the jury came in, she went to the defence table and put her arm around her husband. They embraced, smiled and chatted, and he gave her a peck on the cheek.
Toronto native 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?”
Cosby has said he gave Constand 1 1/2 tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax before what he called a consensual encounter. And the defence ripped into the other women, saying they were motivated by the prospect of money and fame to come forward in recent years with fabricated accounts.
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to 10 years in prison.
The jury at Cosby’s first trial weighed the evidence for more than 52 hours over six days last year without reaching a verdict.
This time, his defence team 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. Constand received nearly $3.4 million from Cosby over a decade ago — a settlement that Mesereau argued was “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time.”
“He thought he was paying for peace. He didn’t get it,” the lawyer said.
In a two-hour, tag-team closing argument, Mesereau and Bliss highlighted more than a dozen inconsistencies in what Constand has said over the years. Mesereau, best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child-molestation case, showed jurors a list of what he said were Constand’s “biggest lies” and displayed excerpts from her police statements and testimony to help back up his claims.
He also painstakingly reviewed phone and travel records for Cosby and Constand, as well as a schedule for the Temple women’s basketball team where she worked, 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.
The date of Cosby’s encounter with Constand is important because of when he was charged. Prosecutors reopened the case in 2015, and he was charged late that year — just before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire.
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.
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 stoically.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Constand has done so.