Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and assaulting a woman nearly 14 years ago. Once an American darling, star of the Cosby Show and a pathbreaking representative for the African American community, Cosby is now a convicted sexual criminal. On Thursday, April 26, 2018, a jury for the Montgomery County Circuit Court, comprised of seven men and five women, found the disgraced entertainer guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
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At the center of the case is Andrea Constand who, along with over 50 other women, have accused Cosby of slipping them quaaludes, a sedative, in order to assault them. A previous trial involving Constand’s allegations was ended nearly a year ago, when jurors failed to reach a verdict.
In the new retrial, Constand told jurors that, in 2004, during a visit to Cosby’s home outside Philadelphia, she had been given pills that left her unable to control her body, slipping in and out of consciousness. “I was kind of jolted awake,” Ms. Constand said, “and felt Mr. Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched.”
Cosby did not testify in his own defense. He only attended closing arguments, joined by his wife Camille.
Constand was joined in her testimony by five other women, all but one of whom had been barred from testifying in the previous trial. Former model Janice Dickinson told the court of her experiences in 1982, when, in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe, Cosby allegedly gave her medication for “menstrual cramps.” Soon after, Dickinson said, “here was America’s dad on top of me, a happily married man with five children, on top of me.”
A wave of similar accounts, prosecutors argued, demonstrated that the alleged assault of Ms. Constand was just one example taken from a pattern of unconscionable sexual misconduct.
Constand’s case, however, was critical in Cosby’s prosecution, since most of the other allegations against him are well-beyond the criminal statute of limitations.
Cosby’s spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, told reporters at the comedian’s mansion that his defense team plans to raise a similar argument when they appeal the April 26 verdict in Constand’s case. Criminal charges based on Constand’s allegations were filed against Cosby in December of 2015; attorneys for Cosby say that was too late for the conviction to stick.
At trial, the former actor’s defense attorneys attempted to smear Constand before the jury, depicting the woman, who had been an employee of Philadelphia’s Temple University at the time of the alleged assault, as a money-grubber.
“You are going to be asking yourself during this trial, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?’,” defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. told the jury, “and you already know the answer: ‘Money, money and lots more money.’ “
An academic adviser at Temple, described by the New York Times as “the defense’s star witness,” testified that she had been approached by Constand in 2004 with a plan to falsely accuse a prominent person of assault for material gain. Constand denied the meeting. Cosby paid her more than $3 million to settle a civil lawsuit in 2006, but she said civil litigation was her only avenue for recourse after criminal prosecutors initially declined to pursue the case.
After the verdict was rendered, other accusers described joy and relief. 61-year-old Patricia Steuer, who says she was assaulted by Cosby in 1978 and 1980, learned the news when she and her husband were in a Lake Tahoe pharmacy. “We just collapsed in each other’s arms,” she told the New York Times. “We were just crying.”
The verdict is also likely to throw steam behind a number of civil suits currently pending in court. Several women are seeking monetary damages from Cosby in their own private legal actions.
In the wake of the jury’s verdict, one juror has stepped forward to explain his decision. In an exclusive interview with ABC, 22-year-old Harrison Snyder, who says he was not particularly familiar with Cosby’s professional work prior to court proceedings, told reporters that he believed Constand’s testimony, but was doubtful due to several inconsistencies in her story.
At one point, she’d told police that the assault occurred in March 2004, then switched the date of the incident to January. A psychiatrist who testified on Constand’s behalf told jurors that inconsistencies aren’t uncommon for sexual assault victims, especially people who have been given hypnotic drugs before their assault.
But what really solidified his decision, Snyder says, was Cosby’s own testimony. Jurors heard from a deposition in which Cosby admitted to giving quaaludes to other women. “He said it himself,” Snyder said. “That he used these drugs on other women.”
Now 80, Cosby has openly admitted to years of extramarital affairs, liaisons in which he frequently gave women quaaludes to disarm them into acquiescing to his sexual advances. And, while many pundits have labeled the trial’s outcome as a key victory for the #MeToo movement, Snyder says the rising unrest against men in power had little to do with the jury’s deliberations. “I really only found out about [#MeToo] after I got home,” Snyder told Good Morning America. “Then I looked online to see what everything was.”