Cosby's fate rests with jury in Pennsylvania sex assault case

By Joseph Ax
| NORRISTOWN, Pa.

NORRISTOWN, Pa. A Pennsylvania jury on Tuesday began its first full day of deliberations in the trial of entertainer Bill Cosby, who is accused of sexually assaulting a female friend who had come to him for career advice in 2004.

Cosby, best known for his role as the dad in the 1980s hit family TV comedy “The Cosby Show,” in 2015 was charged with sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his home in the Philadelphia suburbs, just days before the statute of limitations was to run out.

Constand is one of dozens of women to have accused Cosby of sex abuse, often after plying them with drugs, in a series of incidents dating to the 1960s. The allegation by Constand, a former athletic administrator at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, is the only one not too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

Constand, now 44, was the prosecution’s star witness in the week-long trial in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, testifying that Cosby gave her pills that left her unable to respond when he sexually assaulted her. Another witness, Kelly Johnson, testified that she was the victim of a similar attack by the comedian in 1996.

Cosby, 79, whose long career was based on a family-friendly comedy style, did not testify. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and described his encounter with Constand as consensual.

In his closing argument on Monday, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Cosby’s words incriminated him, noting that the defendant apologized to Constand and her mother and offered to pay for Constand’s schooling after her mother confronted him.

He also focused on Cosby’s admission that he told Constand the pills were her “friends” that would help her “relax” but did not inform her what they were.

Since beginning deliberations on Monday afternoon, jurors have asked to hear some of Cosby’s prior statements, including his description of the pills he gave Constand prior to the alleged attack.

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle in his closing statement said Cosby was guilty of adultery but not sexual assault. Among those listening was Camille Cosby, 73, his wife of 50 years and business manager. She came to the courtroom for the first time on Monday.

The defense has focused on inconsistencies in Constand’s statements about certain details of the alleged assault and pointed out that she remained in contact with Cosby for months after the night in question.

Cosby’s attorneys sought to portray her as a woman whose allegations were motivated by money. She settled a 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby for an undisclosed sum, though jurors did not hear about that case.

As jury deliberations continued on Tuesday, Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, released a statement from a woman, Marguerite Jackson, who was barred from testifying as a defense witness.

Jackson said she worked with Constand at Temple University and shared a hotel room with her during occasional trips. On an unspecified date, she said, the women saw a news story about a famous man accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Constand told Jackson a high-profile man had done something similar to her, according to the statement. After Jackson pressed her, Constand admitted it had not happened but said she could easily use the story to make money off the man, Jackson said.

Cosby’s spokesman, Wyatt, said Jackson’s statement would “let the world know” that Constand had perjured herself. Constand testified at trial that she did not know who Marguerite Jackson was.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill ruled Jackson’s testimony was inadmissible hearsay.

The jurors were brought in from the Pittsburgh area after defense lawyers argued that local residents would be biased by the intense media coverage. They began deliberating on Monday afternoon and have been sequestered at a hotel for the trial’s duration, a relatively rare occurrence in the U.S. criminal justice system.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)

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