This week the long awaited trial against Bill Cosby began in Pennsylvania where he is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman some years ago.
Jury selection was a lengthy process and many questioned whether Cosby could receive a fair trial due to his high profile and the visibility of this case. However, the members of the jury were selected from another county, about 300 miles away; they will be sequestered; and they include 7 men, 5 women, and two African-American members. The trial is taking place in Norristown, a suburb of Philadelphia.
Mr. Cosby is charged with three counts of second-degree felony indecent assault. These stem from a 2004 allegation of molestation from a former Temple University Basketball Manager named Andrea Constand. Constand claims that Cosby gave her pills and then took advantage of her in his home. In 2005, Constand reported the incident to the police, who at that time declined to press criminal charges. However, Constand brought a civil suit against Cosby, which he settled in 2006, and much of the information used in the current trial comes from the depositions that occurred for that civil case.
The settled civil suit was sealed and parties to the case were bound by confidentiality. But after other allegations against Cosby surfaced, Constand and her attorney sought to unseal the deposition and remove the confidentiality agreement she was bound by, arguing that Cosby was not upholding his part to not to discuss the case. Because Cosby had been discussing and denying the accusations publicly, the court had determined he broke confidentiality and the depositions from the civil case could be unsealed.
The depositions revealed that Cosby had a history of casual liaisons with women that often included Quaaludes. However, he insists these encounters were consensual. The deposition further showed that Cosby does not deny that he gave Ms. Constand pills, which he says were Benadryl, but again insists she consented and was awake during their encounter.His defense team also argues that there were several inconsistent versions of Constand’s accusation, which is also why the original DA said he declined to pursue charges.
On the other hand, Constand states she was physically compromised and could not resist, saying the pills made her dizzy and nauseous as well as making her legs feel “like jelly”. Furthermore, the prosecution points out that she is gay and was in a relationship at the time and thus would not have consented to such an encounter.
What about the Other Accusations?
Over the last few years approximately 60 women have come forward with similar stories concerning Bill Cosby. However, in the majority of situations there has not been enough evidence to press charges or the statute of limitations for sexual assault has expired. When Constand brought the 2005 civil suit she named 13 other women as witnesses who could attest to Cosby’s behavior. One of those 13 accusers, Kelly Johnson, a former assistant to his agency, will be allowed to testify in the current case in an attempt to show a pattern of behavior, but the judge did not want all the original accusers to testify for fear of biasing the jury. Several of the women who claim they were assaulted have begun to work together to actively extend the statute of limitations for sexual assault. In 2016, Colorado and Nevada extended it from 10 to 20 years and California abolished it altogether. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is 12 years.
In addition to his compromised legacy, Cosby, 79, who is now completely blind, faces up to 10 years in prison if he loses this case. He does not plan to testify in the trial, so the outcome will depend on the credibility of Constand and the other accuser. The judge has stated that he wants this to be quick, but the trial is expected to last two weeks or longer.
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