NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s chief accuser is set to take the witness stand on Friday at his sexual assault retrial, making for a climactic courtroom showdown after five other women told jurors that the man once revered as “America’s Dad” is a serial rapist who harmed them too.
Andrea Constand’s appearance is her second chance to confront Cosby in court, since his first trial ended without a verdict. This time, though, she’s facing a defence team intent on portraying her as a “con artist” who framed him for money.
Constand, who turned 45 on Wednesday, says Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004, when she was a women’s basketball administrator at his alma mater, Temple University.
It’s the only allegation among dozens against Cosby that has led to criminal charges. He says the encounter was consensual, but paid $3.4 million in 2006 to settle a civil lawsuit Constand filed after the district attorney at the time dropped the case.
Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau told jurors in an opening statement on Tuesday that Constand was a pauper who stiffed roommates on bills, racked up big credit card debt and once ran a Ponzi scheme until she “hit the jackpot” when Cosby paid her.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt on Thursday derided the five additional accusers who testified as “distractors” and “advocates for the prosecution and Andrea Constand.” Just one other accuser was permitted to take the stand at Cosby’s first trial.
Wyatt said the women traded in “poetic licensing, better known as alternative facts” and were pawns in an “‘Ocean’s 11’-style script” cooked up by lawyers Gloria Allred and her daughter, Lisa Bloom, “to extort Mr. Cosby for $100 million.”
Allred floated a proposal that Cosby set aside a chunk of his fortune to compensate accusers, but he never agreed.
“Since this American citizen didn’t adhere to Ms. Allred’s ransom notice, she paraded in a stable of women to destroy his legacy, his career and reputation,” Wyatt said.
Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, called the attacks on her client “outrageous” and “baseless,” and ripped Cosby’s team for trashing her reputation in the courtroom — where lawyers are immune from defamation lawsuits — and in statements to the media.
“I’d love to see if he thinks he’s going to prove any of this,” Troiani told The Associated Press. “What basis does he have for any of this? So he gets to say whatever he wants and once again they go outside, they slander her outside of the courtroom and what is her recourse?”
Troiani was peeved at the defence for fighting to disclose the settlement figure to jurors in what she said was a clear violation of the confidential settlement agreement Cosby and Constand struck.
“This is the type of man Cosby is,” she said. “We had an agreement and that agreement was supposed to be for both sides. It’s not hush money, and I really resent people calling it hush money. It’s compensation for the damages done to her.”
The other women’s harrowing, sometimes tearful stories could help.
Janice Dickinson told jurors on Thursday that Cosby gave her a pill he claimed would ease her menstrual cramps but instead left her immobilized and unable to stop an assault she called “gross.”
“I didn’t consent to this. Here was ‘America’s Dad,’ on top of me. A married man, father of five kids, on top of me,” Dickinson said. “I was thinking how wrong it was. How very wrong it was.”
Dickinson, 27 at the time, testified she felt vaginal pain and, after waking up the next morning, noticed semen between her legs. She said Cosby looked at her “like I was crazy” when she confronted him about what had happened.
“I wanted to hit him. I wanted to punch him in the face,” she said.
Another accuser, taking the witness stand after Dickinson, said Cosby prodded her to drink two shots in his Las Vegas hotel suite, then had her sit between his knees and started petting her head.
Lise-Lotte Lublin told jurors she lost consciousness and doesn’t remember anything else about that night in 1989 — a time when Cosby was at the height of his fame starring as sweater-wearing father-of-five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on America’s top-rated TV show, “The Cosby Show.”
“I trusted him because he’s ‘America’s Dad,’” Lublin said. “I trusted him because he’s a figure people trusted for many years, including myself.”
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and the other women have done.
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For more coverage visit www.apnews.com/tag/CosbyonTrial .
Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press