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The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault retrial will begin deliberating Wednesday after a searing day of closing arguments in which the comedian was variously portrayed as a calculating predator who is finally being brought to justice or the victim of a multimillion-dollar frame-up by a “pathological liar.”
Judge Steven O’Neill sent the seven men and five women back to their hotel Tuesday evening after the jurors indicated they were exhausted from listening to five and a half hours of arguments.
“I want you well rested. I think you have collectively made a wise decision,” the judge said.
The first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era pits Cosby — the 80-year-old former TV star whose career and good-guy reputation were destroyed by a barrage of allegations involving drugs and sex — against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball administrator who testified that he drugged and sexually violated her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion 14 years ago.
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 the jury.
Cosby’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the charges 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 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 former Cosby Show star so she could sue him and extract a big settlement.
Constand received nearly $3.4 million from Cosby over a decade ago in what Mesereau called “one of the biggest highway robberies of all time.”
“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, she 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 colleague of Constand’s who testified that Constand spoke of framing a high-profile person for the purpose of filing a lawsuit.
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,” said Feden, her voice rising as she moved toward Cosby and pointed at him. “The perpetrator of that con is this man, sitting right here.”
The prosecutor said Cosby used his nice-guy image as “America’s Dad” to prey on women. “He is nothing like the image that he played on TV,” Feden warned the jurors.
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 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.
The criminal case was the only one to arise from allegations from more than 60 women who say Cosby engaged in sexual misconduct with them going back five decades.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Constand has done so.
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek