The fate of Bill Cosby lay Monday in the hands of a US jury who deliberated over dinner and into the night on whether or not the disgraced entertainer sexually assaulted a woman at his home more than 13 years ago.
The 79-year-old pioneering black comedian risks spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine, following one of America’s biggest celebrity trials in years.
Whatever the verdict, the trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania marks a steep fall from grace for one of the towering figures of 20th century popular culture, once adored by millions as “America’s Dad” for his seminal role as a lovable father and obstetrician on hit TV series “The Cosby Show.”
But in closing statements, the prosecution portrayed the actor as a sexual predator who deliberately drugged 44-year-old Canadian Andrea Constand so she would be unable to resist his assault in January 2004.
The megastar turned pariah declined to testify and the defense called just one witness, a police detective, before resting their case in just minutes on the sixth day of what was initially billed as a two-week trial.
Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning comedian of being a serial sexual predator in remarkably similar accusations that span four decades, ending his career and shredding his reputation.
But Constand’s is the only criminal case against him as under US statues of limitations. The majority of the alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute.
Constand testified that the assault left her humiliated by someone she had thought of as a friend and mentor.
At the time, she was the 30-year-old director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University, where the actor sat on the board of trustees.
She said Cosby gave her three pills and wine before touching her breasts, putting his fingers in her vagina and putting her hand on his erect penis after she sought his advice about moving to Canada and switching careers.
Cosby maintained only that he gave Constand the antihistamine Benadryl to relieve stress, and that they had consensual sexual relations, accusing her of lying.
On Monday, Cosby’s loyal wife Camille sat in court for the first time to hear the closing arguments for and against her husband of 53 years.
The defense closed by accusing Constand of lying about an affair with Cosby and concocting the allegations to take advantage of the wealthy, older star.
“Don’t let her declare victim,” lawyer Brian McMonagle implored the 12-person jury, who have been sequestered throughout the trial.
He highlighted inconsistencies from Constand, who initially gave different dates for the alleged assault and varied details about events before and after.
“She’s on the phone with lawyers before she told her mom anything,” he said, his voice rising regularly in agitation.
“Why are you trying to call it something it’s not?” McMonagle said. “Just say it.”
– ‘Think about the courage’ –
He also lashed out at the press.
“We’re here because of them,” he said, pointing to the benches of reporters covering the trial. He denounced the “beat of the drum” accusations against Cosby in the media, which have snowballed since late 2014.
Constand initially settled the case with a civil suit in 2006, having waited a year to report the alleged assault to the police.
District attorney Kevin Steele re-opened the case in 2015 saying new evidence had come to light. On Monday, he urged the jury to reject the idea that Constand’s sexual encounter with Cosby had been consensual.
Constand, under the influence of the drugs and who briefly lost consciousness, could not and did not give consent, he said.
“He knew exactly what was going to happen and that was part of the plan,” said Steele. “She never said yes,” he added.
“I want you to think about the courage Andrea Constand has had doing what she had to do,” he urged the jury.
The seven-men, five-woman panel began deliberations at around 5:30 pm (2130 GMT), each ordering dinner from a series of menus that included burgers and salads.
After about two hours, the jury returned to the court room with a question for the judge, saying they wanted to hear part of Cosby’s original 2005 deposition in which he called the pills he brought for Constand his “three friends.”
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