Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017 – 5:42 PM
(AFP) The fate of Bill Cosby was in the hands of a US jury on Monday as they began deliberations on whether or not the disgraced entertainer sexually assaulted a former university employee more than 13 years ago.
The 79-year-old pioneering black comedian faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine, in one of America’s biggest celebrity trials in years.
Cosby, one of the towering figures of US popular culture in the second half of the 20th century, was once adored by millions as “America’s Dad” for his seminal role as a lovable father and obstetrician on hit TV series “The Cosby Show.”
But in closing statements Monday, the prosecution portrayed the actor as a sexual predator who deliberately drugged 44-year-old Canadian Andrea Constand so she could not resist his assault at his Philadelphia home in January 2004.
While the prosecution spent five days building their case, the defense called just one witness and rested their case in minutes Monday after the former megastar declined to testify on day six of the trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Instead Cosby’s lawyer used a 90-minute closing statement to accuse Constand of hiding the true nature of their emotional relationship from the police and concocted the allegations to take advantage of the wealthy, older star.
Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning comedian of being a serial sexual predator in remarkably similar accusations that span four decades, ending his career and shredding his reputation.
- ‘Don’t let her declare victim’ -Constand — who at the time of the assault was the director of women’s basketball at Temple University, where the actor sat on the board of trustees — testified last week that the assault left her humiliated by someone she had thought of as a friend and mentor.
She said Cosby gave her three pills and wine before touching her breasts, putting his fingers in her vagina and putting her hand on his erect penis after she sought his advice about moving to Canada and switching careers.
Cosby maintained only that he gave Constand the antihistamine Benadryl to relieve stress, and that they had consensual sexual relations, accusing her of lying.
On Monday, he was accompanied into court for the first time by his wife of 53 years, Camille, who has stood by his side.
“Don’t let her declare victim,” defense lawyer Brian McMonagle implored the 12-person jury, who have been sequestered throughout the trial.
He highlighted inconsistencies from Constand, who initially gave different dates for the alleged assault and varied details about events before and after.
“She’s on the phone with lawyers before she told her mom anything,” he said, his voice rising regularly in agitation.
“Why are you trying to call it something it’s not?” McMonagle said. “Just say it.”
- ‘Think about the courage’ -McMonagle defended the good faith of his client, saying Cosby had agreed to speak at length to investigators in 2005 when he could have kept silent, and rounded on the press.
“We’re here because of them,” he said, pointing to the benches of reporters covering the trial. He denounced the “beat of the drum” accusations against Cosby in the media, which have snowballed since late 2014.
District attorney Kevin Steele, who re-opened the case in 2015 saying new evidence had come to light, dismissed the idea that Constand’s sexual encounter with Cosby had been consensual.
Constand, under the influence of three drugs given to her by Cosby and who briefly lost consciousness, could not and did not give consent, he said.
“He knew exactly what was going to happen and that was part of the plan,” said Steele. “She never said yes,” he added.
“I want you to think about the courage Andrea Constand has had doing what she had to do,” he urged the jury.
The defense’s solitary witness was Richard Schaeffer, a detective who helped take down Constand’s original statement in 2005, a year after the incident.
Constand was in court with her mother to hear the closing arguments.
© Agence France-Presse