The Cosby Trial: What You Need To Know

Apr 3, 2018
Originally published on April 3, 2018 8:05 am

Next week, Bill Cosby goes to court again to face three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand more than a decade ago.

Last June, a jury couldn't decide whether to convict or acquit the 80-year-old celebrity on these allegations, resulting in a mistrial.

Now, there's a new jury, new defense attorneys and, with the #metoo movement, a new era of accountability for sexual assault. If found guilty, Cosby faces up to 10 years behind bars for each count.

Here's what you need to know about the case and the people involved.

The accuser: Andrea Constand is a former Temple University employee. Cosby and Constand met more than a decade ago while she was working for the university's women's basketball team. She said they became friends and he invited her to dinners at his home and offered her career advice. She is now a massage therapist who lives in Ontario, Canada.

The allegations: On Jan. 4, 2004, Cosby invited Constand to his home near Philadelphia. In the 2017 trial, Constand testified that Cosby gave her three pills that he indicated were "herbal" — but were something else.

She said during trial that those pills made her feel "frozen" and pass out. That's when, she says, Cosby assaulted her.

Constand reported the assault to the police in 2005 and filed a civil suit against Cosby when prosecutors initially declined to press charges. Ten years later, a judge unsealed deposition testimony Cosby gave during that civil suit, in which he said he did give Constand pills and there was sexual contact the night of the alleged assault. In light of this new information, prosecutors looked at Constand's case again and decided to file criminal charges in 2015.

What happened in the first trial: Constand testified. Cosby did not. Jurors also heard testimony from Constand's mother, Gianna Constand, and recorded phone conversations between Gianna and Cosby where Cosby offered to pay for Andrea to go back to school.

Prosecutors also called Kelly Johnson, another woman who claims Cosby drugged and assaulted her, to the stand, to try to show Cosby had a criminal pattern of behavior. Juror Bobby Dugan said he wanted to convict Cosby on two of the three counts he faces, based on Cosby's own past statements, not because of the testimony of either woman.

"In my opinion, consent is a verbal agreement. If there is no verbal agreement there is no consent," he said.

Jurors could not reach a unanimous decision after 52 hours of deliberation. The judge declared it a mistrial.

What's different in this trial: This jury will hear new witnesses. More than 50 women have accused Cosby of assaulting them, dating back to the 1960s. A judge recently ruled to allow testimony from up to five women, in addition to Constand, who say Cosby also drugged and sexually assaulted them.

Cosby's not on trial for these other women's accusations. But they're allowed to testify in this case to help a jury decide whether Cosby knew what he was doing.

And then, there's the explosion of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against high profile men, known as the #metoo movement, that kicked off a few months after the mistrial.

Cosby's lawyers asked the court to ban T-shirts, flowers, buttons and any other paraphernalia that could be used to make a statement about the movement during the trial, to try to keep public opinion from biasing the jury. Judge Steven O'Neill granted that request, banning any items that could make a statement for or against either side in the case.

The defense: Cosby testified in a 2005 civil deposition that he did give Constand pills and there was sexual contact.

Last year, Cosby's then-attorney, Angela Agrusa, argued that the contact was consensual and romantic. Cosby's defense team also questioned Constand's credibility, pointing to inconsistencies in her accounts to the police.

For this trial, there's a new lead defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, who previously defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges.

Court documents indicate the defense has asked to call a witness who they say shows Constand planned to fabricate a claim of sexual assault in order to get a big payout. Lawyers may also be able to discuss the money Constand received from settling the civil lawsuit against Cosby in 2006.

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