Allegheny County jury to decide Bill Cosby’s fate on criminal sex assault charges

Closing arguments in the trial have ended outside Philadelphia.

Bill Cosby enters the courtroom in Norristown, PA.

Bill Cosby enters the courtroom in Norristown, PA.

Pool photo by DAVID MAIALETTI / The Philadelphia Inquirer

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Though dozens of women have accused Bill Cosby, the comedian once known as “America’s dad,” of sexual assault, his guilt or acquittal on the lone criminal charge he faces now rests in the hands of seven men and five women from western Pennsylvania.

Attorneys on both sides of the sexual assault case wrapped up their final arguments today, the beginning of the second week of Cosby’s criminal trial. Just after 4 p.m., Judge Steven T. O’Neill began giving the jury its charge. Last week, prosecutors called 12 witnesses and accuser Andrea Constand testified for more than seven hours. Today, the defense called just one witness — a detective who was the lead investigator — and rested its case. Cosby did not testify in his own defense.

This morning, Cosby’s lead defense attorney Brian T. McMonagle delivered a two-hour closing argument that centered around the idea of reasonable doubt, as well as Constand’s credibility, which McMonagle claimed was shot after she gave differing statements to investigators when she first came forward about the alleged assault in 2005.

Cosby sat attentively in court today and was for the first time backed by his wife, Camille, who sat in front row while McMonagle delivered his closing argument. At one point, the attorney gestured toward Camille while he described Cosby’s conduct.

“When you dance outside your marriage, you got to pay the band. And he danced,” McMonagle said. “And she deserved better.”

McMonagle told the Allegheny County jury that Cosby believed his relationship with Constand was “romantic,” and he attempted to lay out a timeline of contact between the two that lasted beyond when prosecutors say the alleged assault occurred in January 2004. But prosecutors painted Cosby as a calculating sexual predator who used his “celebrity status” and his friendship with Constand to take advantage of her with the help of drugs.

“You ingratiated yourself into this young woman’s life,” Montgomery County district attorney Kevin Steele said of Cosby. “You treated her well. You paid her attention. And then you drugged her and did what you wanted to.”

In his more-than-two-hour closing argument, Steele also told jurors that in sex crimes cases in Pennsylvania, the testimony of the alleged victim is “sufficient proof,” and “the testimony of her alone is enough to sustain a conviction in this case.”

Constand testified that in January 2004 following a 16-month friendship with Cosby through her job at Temple University, she visited his home in Cheltenham, just outside Philadelphia. She testified that Cosby gave her three small, blue pills that she thought were herbal supplements.

From there, things got fuzzy. Constand testified that when she came to, Cosby was sexually assaulting her and she was unable to stop him, feeling “frozen” and “paralyzed.”

Jurors last week also heard depositions from a 2005 civil suit filed by Constand, in which Cosby testified he used to give Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with. Steele repeatedly brought up those depositions during his closing argument, saying Cosby’s own words prove he had “knowledge” about the drugs he was “administering.”

“This is pretty fundamental: lack of consent,” Steele said. “From the defendant’s own words, she never said ‘yes.’ She never said ‘yes’ to this.”

Cosby’s team contends that he gave Constand Benadryl, and that their encounter was consensual. McMonagle said during his closing argument that though Cosby said a lot about using drugs before having sex with women, he’s been consistent in describing the encounter with Constand as consensual.

McMonagle also repeatedly reminded jurors that in 2005, Montgomery County officials dropped the case against Cosby, citing lack of evidence.

“We’re not here because of Andrea Constand. That was over in 2005. We’re here because of this nonsense,” McMonagle said, gesturing toward reporters and a row of women who also say Cosby sexually assaulted them. “We’re here because of them.”

While about 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual violence, Constand’s case is the only one that has resulted in criminal charges. Cosby, who pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent assault, faces jail time if convicted.

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