A jury has found Bill Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his suburban Pennsylvania home in 2004. The jury handed down the guilty verdict on all three counts of indecent aggravated assault after more than 12 hours of deliberation, following a retrial that lasted more than two weeks.
Cosby’s conviction concludes an acrimonious case that played out in the courtroom and in the press. In 2014 and 2015, dozens of women came forward with allegations that the comedian had drugged and sexually abused them. The statute of limitations had long since expired in almost all of those cases.
Andrea Constand’s was the exception. In December 2015, Montgomery County prosecutors charged Cosby with three counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to accusations from Constand. Constand, who went to police in 2005, alleged that Cosby had given her pills in his suburban Pennsylvania home that left her incapacitated and molested her. The case went to trial in June 2017, and ended in a mistrial.
Then came the #MeToo movement. After the New York Times and the New Yorker reported on the widespread allegations of sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, more and more stories came pouring out about high-profile men who abused their power. Ten months elapsed between the two trials, but Cosby returned to court in a very different climate. And this time, the jury believed the women who accused him.
Cosby was on trial for drugging and assaulting a woman in 2004
Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, met Cosby in 2002, when she worked as the director of operations for the women’s basketball team. (Cosby, a former Temple student, served on the university’s board of trustees.) Constand said she considered Cosby, then in his 60s, a mentor. In January 2004 at Cosby’s home, she said, he gave her three blue pills that he told her would help to relieve stress. She took them, and became unfocused and confused. She said she passed out on the couch.
“I felt Mr. Cosby on the couch behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breasts being touched,” Constand testified. She said she was too weak to fight Cosby off: “I wanted it to stop,” she said. “I couldn’t say anything. I was trying to get my hands to move, my legs to move, and the message just wasn’t getting there.”
In the first trial, the jury heard Constand’s story, and the story of one other accuser. This time, the judge allowed the prosecution to call five witnesses, all of whom said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them. Their accusations dated back to the 1980s.
Cosby is not on trial for the incidents they described — something the judge had to remind the jury — but the five women were supposed to serve as “prior bad acts” witnesses who could establish Cosby had a pattern of assaulting women.
The five women, often defiant in the face of attacks on cross-examination, presented a powerful case. Their stories echoed Constand’s own story of confusion, paralysis, and shame as they realized they had been violated. “Here was America’s Dad on top of me,” Janice Dickinson, a former supermodel who said Cosby drugged and raped her in 1982 in Lake Tahoe, said in court, describing her shock during the assault.
Those five accusers and Constand herself withstood the torrent of questions and recriminations from the defense. Some women admitted to confusion about what happened to them decades ago, and that they spent years grappling with their encounters with Cosby. Yet all were adamant about their allegations: They were drugged, they were assaulted, and Cosby did it.
The defense tried to depict the sexual assault allegations against Cosby as a “witch hunt” — echoing some of the backlash to the #MeToo movement. Cosby and his new legal team also introduced new evidence, including a witness who testified that Constand had planned to accuse Cosby of sexual assault to get money. The sum of the settlement Constand reached with Cosby in 2006 — nearly $3.4 million — was also made public at trial, for the first time.
The defense tried to discredit Constand and the other women, attacking their credibility and drudging up their past misbehaviors. The comedian’s lawyers also tried to sow doubt by presenting his touring schedule and his private plane records to show he hadn’t scheduled trips to Philadelphia around the time of the alleged assault. Cosby did not take the stand in his own defense.
The prosecution closed the trial with a closing statement that lasted three hours. In it, prosecutors described Cosby as a serial predator. “That character assassination that Ms. Bliss put those women through was utterly shameful,” prosecutor Kristen Feden said of one of Cosby’s lawyers, Kathleen Bliss. “She’s the exact reason why women, victims of sexual assault and men don’t report these crimes.”
Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the charges against him.