Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial got underway Monday morning with opening statements from both sides.
Prosecutors painted him as a sexual predator who took advantage of a woman who viewed him as her mentor by drugging her then sexually assaulting her. The defense portrayed him as an innocent man who has een wrongfully accused.
“Trust, betrayal and the inability to consent — that’s what this case is about,” Montgomery County assistant district attorney Kristen Feden told the jury in her hour-long opening statement.
“This case is about a man,” she said, walking over to Cosby. “This man, who used his power and his fame and his previously practiced method of placing a young, trusting woman into a trusting state so she couldn’t say ‘no.’ She was incapacitated. She could not consent.”
In his 45-minute opening argument, defense attorney Brian McMonagle called alleged victim Andrea Constand “untruthful,” saying she gave conflicting statements to law enforcement throughout the initial investigations in 2005.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime,” McMonagle told the jury. “It takes away dignity. … The only thing worse than that is the false accusation of sexual assault.”
Such a false accusation, McMonagle said, his voice rising, is “an attack on human dignity. … It’s not a distraction. It can destroy a man. It can destroy his life. It can destroy his future.”
Though Constand initially told detectives that she had no contact with Cosby after the alleged incident in January 2004, McMonagle says she called Cosby 53 times.
“There were 72 phone calls [between them],” he told the jury. “She called him 53 times…They spoke at times for 30 to 40 minutes.”
Cosby, 79, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple employee Constand, now 44, at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, mansion in January 2004.
In 2005, former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor, Jr. declined to prosecute Cosby and Constand subsequently filed a civil suit against Cosby, which he settled with her in late 2006.
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In July 2015, Castor’s successor quietly reopened the case after Cosby’s deposition in Constand’s civil suit — in which he admitted to giving women he wanted to have sex with Quaaludes — became public. On December 30 of that year, newly elected District Attorney Kevin Steele charged Cosby with the crimes for which he is currently on trial.
Cosby has pleaded not guilty, saying what happened between he and Constand was consensual. Constand will take the stand during the trial and will make her first public remarks about what happened that night.
Cosby has disputed similar allegations from more than 60 women.
Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Cosby’s daughter Rudy on The Cosby Show, walked into the courthouse Monday morning holding Cosby’s arm. She sat in the second row behind Cosby, next to Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, and appeared to be paying close attention to what was happening in court — even to Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill’s 60 minutes of jury instruction.
Cosby appeared to be paying close attention as well.
Prosecutor: Constand Had Nightmares
Both sides made it clear the gloves were off. Feden tried to head off questions about Constand’s inconsistencies, trying to explain in advance why she continued to see him after the alleged incident and why she gave differing accounts at first.
“When the defense comes up here and tries to district you with Andrea’s conduct after the incident, I ask you to remember that no one can predict how a person will act after they’ve experienced that level of trauma,” Feden said. “You may not agree with some of the actions Andrea took but she will take the stand and explain to you that was the easiest way she could maintain sanity, maintain normalcy, as she was internally experiencing that trauma.”
She left the night of the alleged incident “in complete shock and utter confusion the first thing she tried to do was maintain some sense of normalcy,” Feden said. “She didn’t want to be in that state of confusion. … She didn’t want to maintain those feelings the defendant made her feel that night. So what did she do? The best she could do to deal with it. She bottled it up.”
“She was not successful at that,” Feden added. “At one point she tried to call him to confront him and he invited her to a restaurant. She went and she tried to maintain professionalism. … When she tried to confront him, he said, ‘Follow me to my home.’
“She went to his home,” Feden continued. “He was so dismissive that she just lost her nerve and in utter confusion, left.”
Andrea’s mother, Gianna, will testify about Andrea’s behavior after she moved back to Canada in March of 2004.
“The defendant’s mom will testify that Andrea’s attempts to maintain normalcy were not successful,” she said. “She was experiencing nightmares. She was waking up screaming. She was experiencing trauma related emotional distress that resulted from bottling it up. As her life was spinning out of control, her parents got wind the defendant was performing in Canada.”
So when they asked her to get tickets, she did it, Feden said.
“They had no idea what their daughter had experienced,” she said. “For Andrea it was a struggle. Should she disclose the humiliating details of that night? She took the easy way out. Get the tickets. Accompany them to the show and just continue to have it bottled up inside.”
Defense: ‘Andrea Constand Changed Her Story’
McMonagle pointed out the alleged inconsistencies in Constand’s account.
He alleged she initially told investigators she had not had contact with Cosby. He also said Constand initially told authorities the incident occurred in March, not in January.
All of these inconsistencies were why Castor decided not to prosecute Cosby in 2005, he said.
“I promise you by the end of this case, you’re going to find out why Andrea Constand changed her story,” McMonagle said, declining to elaborate further.
“I’m going to come back and tell you that I kept my promise. I will do that. And then I will ask you to keep yours. If they don’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you call him what he is, and that is not guilty. This man’s life depends on it.”