Thirteen years after allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, Bill Cosby will face off against his accuser at a courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, starting this week.
Though the iconic actor and comedian has said he will not testify, Constand is expected to offer her account of what happened that day in 2004, when she claims Cosby gave her three blue oblong tablets at his home and then proceeded to molest her while she was immobilised.
Cosby, 79, has denied drugging Constand, though he has admitted to sexual contact between the pair – but as part of a consensual relationship. Constand has denied Cosby’s explanation, telling police, “We were not involved in any romantic relationship.”
In all, nearly 60 women have since stepped forward to accuse The Cosby Show actor of sexual assault and misconduct, filing lawsuits to out the once-revered TV dad for his decades of wrongdoing.
The trial is set to last two weeks, and is being viewed by many as the biggest celebrity trial in the U.S. since O.J. Simpson’s highly televised murder trial in 1995. Here’s everything you need to know about the Cosby trial prior to the first opening statement.
Cosby is being charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
Cosby and Constand first met in November 2002 when he attended a basketball game at his alma mater, Temple University, in Philadelphia. At the time, Constand, a former varsity basketball star in Canada, was the director of operations for the Temple women’s team. Cosby has testified that he was instantly attracted to the “good-looking” six-foot athlete, who was at the time in her late 20s.
Constand, now 44, became like a mentee to him, Cosby has testified. In early 2004, the actor invited Constand to his home in nearby Cheltenham Township, where they chatted about her decision to move away from sports and pursue a career in massage, like her father. When she told him she felt emotionally drained from stress, Cosby went upstairs and returned with three pills, telling Constand they would help her relax. According to Constand’s account, he told her to take the pills with a few sips of wine, and approximately 20 to 30 minutes later, she recalls having difficulty speaking and “rubbery” legs. While she was frozen in her seat, she alleged, he fondled her breasts and her genital area and put her hand on his erect penis.
Constand’s account of that evening conclude with her waking up around 4 a.m. to see Cosby appearing in the room with a muffin, which he gave to her with the words, “All right,” before showing her out the front door.
In Cosby’s recounting of the events that night, he said that after giving Constand the pills to relax, the pair “began to neck and we began to touch and we began to feel and kiss and kiss back.” In his telling of the story, Cosby said that when he put his hand down her pants, Constand put her hand on top of his “to push it in further,” suggesting consent. He, too, recalls a muffin, but said that he recalled giving her a blueberry muffin and Red Zinger tea, and that the two of them chatted for a while before she left.
If found guilty, Cosby will face a fine of up to $25,000 per each of three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault, and a maximum sentence of 10 years – which could be a life sentence for the aging TV star.
Constand’s case is the only criminal case to arise from accusations by more than 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault.
Despite the headline-making number of women who have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault – nearly 60 in all – Constand’s case is the only one that has led to criminal persecution since the other women’s claims are beyond the statute of limitations for criminal charges, which varies from state to state, but in many cases range anywhere from one to 15 years.
On Monday, however, one of the other accusers will testify. The woman, identified only as “Kacey,” will be questioned about her 1996 encounter with Cosby, when she went to lunch at his California hotel bungalow and allegedly passed out after he gave her a “large white pill.” She claimed at a 2015 press conference that she woke up with Cosby next to her, naked underneath his robe. Cosby has denied all allegations of sexual assault and has deemed the encounter consensual.
Though prosecutors are typically not allowed to introduce evidence or accusations of prior behaviour to a trial because it may influence the jury, such evidence is permitted when it shows a pattern in the behaviour of the defendant. Judge Steven T. O’Neill of the Court of Common Pleas has deemed this instance as just such a case. Prosecutors had initially asked for 13 women to testify, but O’Neill agreed to the testimony of just one, most likely because “Kacey’s” account is most similar to that of Constand’s.
While Constand alleges Cosby knowingly drugged and assaulted her, Cosby’s lawyers have maintained his innocence, calling her claims unsupported and unreliable.
Constand didn’t speak out about the alleged assault until one year after that dinner at Cosby’s home. Her mother, Gianna, has recounted how her daughter had a flashback of the assault in January 2005 and eventually told her everything she remembered of the night. Gianna and Constand called Canadian police the next day.
Between the night of the alleged assault and Constand coming forward, however, the former Canadian star athlete had seen Cosby twice. The first time, in March 2004, Constand said she had accepted an invitation to dine with him because she hoped to confront him. She said she balked, and bolted when he sat down close to her. The next time was that summer, when she attended one of his shows in Canada with her parents, and brought him a sweater as a gift – a detail the defense may use to show that Constand was not traumatized from the alleged assault, according to NBC News.
The prosecution will likely point to Cosby’s previous admission to using powerful drugs like Quaaludes.
In 2005, Cosby gave a deposition for a civil lawsuit filed against him for allegedly molesting a Philadelphia woman after surreptitiously drugging her, in which he admitted to purchasing Quaaludes, a sedative, to give to women he wanted to have sex with. The actor admitted that he had acquired seven prescriptions of Quaaludes with the intent to give them to young women he wanted to have sex with, though he did not admit to ever actually using the drugs. Constant’s story surfaced shortly after the documents were unsealed in 2015, and numerous women stepped forward shortly after that to tell their own stories of alleged sexual assault at the hands of Cosby.
There will be a few familiar faces at the trial Monday –and a few missing ones as well.
Cosby’s team has stated that Keshia Knight Pullman, who played young Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show, will be in the courtroom to show her support of her former TV dad. Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby’s wife on the popular 1980s sitcom, will not appear; the actress has defended Cosby in the past but will be deep into rehearsals for the Public Theater’s New York presentation ofA Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is still unclear whether his wife of 53 years, Camille Cosby, will be by his side in court. Meanwhile, a number of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct will be in attendance in the courtroom.
“I haven’t seen him since 1969,” one of the women, Victoria Valentino, told NBC News. Valentino, a former Playmate, has accused Cosby of drugging and raping her in Los Angeles back in 1969. “I hope he makes eye contact because I’d love to look him in the eye and stare him down.”