Bill Cosby walks through the Montgomery County Courthouse during jury selection for his sexual assault retrial last week. Mark Makela via Getty
Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby back on trial today to face sexual assault charges

Some 60 women have accused Cosby of assault.

US COMEDIAN BILL Cosby returns to trial this morning for alleged sexual assault less than a year after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the same charge.

The now 80-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted of drugging and molesting former university employee Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia home in 2004.

The black entertainer’s first trial ended in a hung jury on 17 June, with a sequestered panel hopelessly deadlocked after six days of testimony and 52 hours of deliberations.

The case forever tarnished the legacy of an actor once adored by millions as “America’s Dad” for his seminal role as a lovable father and obstetrician on hit 1984-92 television series The Cosby Show.

In recent years, some 60 women have accused the Emmy winner, who today claims to be legally blind, of being a serial predator, alleging that he drugged and assaulted them over a span of 40 years.

Yet three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand, who now lives in Canada, are the only criminal charges to stick, with most of the alleged abuse having occurred too long ago to prosecute.

But the second trial is likely to be dramatically different from the first when opening statements begin at the courthouse in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown.

Judge Steven O’Neill has agreed to let five other Cosby accusers testify, compared to just one the last time, handing a major victory to prosecutors, who will seek to paint Cosby as a serial predator.

Michael Jackson’s lawyer

“This is the most significant difference between the two trials and is a substantial problem for the defence,” said Melissa Gomez, a Philadelphia-based jury expert.

The most well-known of the five is 63-year-old model Janice Dickinson, who says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1982.

“More accusers creates a consensus,” Gomez told AFP. “It is much easier to attack the credibility of one person than it is six.”

The defence team has also changed, now headed by Los Angeles celebrity import Tom Mesereau, known for getting Michael Jackson acquitted of child molestation.

Last time, Cosby did not testify and the defence spent just minutes presenting their case, arguing that there was no evidence to convict.

This time, O’Neill has warned the trial may last a month. He also handed a win to the defence in allowing testimony from a former co-worker who alleges that Constand schemed against Cosby.

Lawyers may also be able to make public the amount of money that Cosby paid Constand in a civil suit to settle her claim in 2006, which could strengthen efforts to portray her as a scheming money-grabber.

Mesereau’s hardball tactics have already been in evidence in a failed attempt to get the judge booted off the case for alleged bias because his wife works with sexual assault victims.

The defence has also moved to strike one juror from the trial for being allegedly overheard saying: “I just think he’s guilty, so we can all be done and get out of here.”


Permeating the entire case is the #MeToo movement, which erupted in October and has seen the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey shamed and stripped of their positions for alleged sexual misconduct.

941831356 Cosby arriving at court last week. Gilbert Carrasquillo Gilbert Carrasquillo

Experts say the cultural watershed may make jurors more inclined to believe victims.

“It’s like a fog,” said William Brennan, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer who has followed the trial.

At the time of the alleged assault, Constand was the director of women’s basketball at Temple University, where the actor sat on the board of trustees. She will take the stand again second time around.

In a 2005 deposition, Cosby said he gave Constand an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve stress and that they had consensual relations, but admitted obtaining sedatives with a view to having sex.

The case boils down to he-said, she-said. There is no physical evidence, and many still remember Cosby as a beloved entertainer.

Twelve jurors — five women and seven men, 10 white and two black — together with six alternates, are to be sequestered.

Cosby, who was lauded as a hero by African Americans and revered by whites for smashing through racial barriers, is best remembered for his role as Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show.

One of the most popular television series in history, it propelled the son of a maid and a US Navy cook into a life of fame and wealth.

© – AFP 2018