Bill Cosby Assault Scandal Ends in Mistrial

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) –  A judge declared a mistrial Saturday in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial, with the jury deadlocked on whether the comedian intentionally incapacitated a woman he had sex with in 2004.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said he will retry the case immediately. Though the commonwealth has a year to do so, Steele said prosecutors will try to get the case on the schedule in the next four months.

“Our plan is to move forward as soon as possible,” Steele told reporters. “We have to re-evaluate the case.”

Cosby’s 12-person jury had been sequestered in Norristown, Pennsylvania, weighing the three counts against the 79-year-old since closing arguments concluded on June 12. Each count carries a possible 10-year sentence, if convicted.

In this combination of file photos, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview in Washington on Nov. 6, 2014, and Andrea Constand poses for a photo in Toronto on Aug. 1, 1987. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, left, and Ron Bull/Toronto Star/The Canadian Press via AP, right)

One of Cosby’s representatives read a statement to reporters after the mistrial announcement from the comedian’s wife, Camille Cosby. “This is a manifestation of justice based on the facts, not lies,” she said.

To ensure a fair trial, Judge Steven O’Neill called in the jury from about 300 miles away in Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. Sequestered juries are not uncommon for high-profile cases. Indeed the jury that acquitted O.J. Simpson of murder was sequestered for 265 days, the longest in American history.

Cosby’s trial in Montgomery County by contrast lasted just six days, not including 50-plus hours of jury deliberations over these last five days. The jury reported Thursday that they were unable to come to unanimous conclusion on Cosby’s guilt, but O’Neill directed them to keep trying.

Race and a fall from grace have been two other parallels between the Cosby and Simpson cases.

Before his scandal-ridden descent in 2014, Cosby had been considered interchangeable with the wholesome patriarch Dr. Cliff Huxtable, whom he played for eight seasons on “The Cosby Show.”

These last three years, however, have been marked by dozens of women coming forward about allegedly nonconsensual sexual encounters with Cosby dating back to the 1970s.

Cosby met his trial accuser, Andrea Constand, at Temple University where he was a trustee and she was director of operations for the women’s basketball team.

Thirty-five years younger than the comedian, Constand testified in the trial that she had come to see Cosby as a mentor and father figure, unaware that the attention he paid her was romantic. On the night of her alleged assault in early 2004, Constand said she had sought Cosby’s guidance about a possible career change.

She claimed that Cosby incapacitated her at his house in Cheltenham, a suburb of Philadelphia, and then had sex with her when she could not consent.

Constand, who is a lesbian, reported Cosby to the police in 2005, about a year after her alleged attack, but prosecutors initially found the case too weak to prosecute.

DA Steele was not involved in the 2005 proceedings. He told reporters that the commonwealth takes seriously its responsibility to hold Cosby accountable.

“It’s important to stand up for sexual assault victims,” Steele said this morning. “Our witness got to face the defendant and tell what happened,” he added.

It is undisputed that Cosby gave Constand three pills that he now contends were Benadryl, and that they had sex.

Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Cosby is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Pool)

Constand said Cosby told her at the time, however, that the pills were “herbal,” and that she was surprised when she began feeling their effects — losing control of her legs, and seeing double.

“I don’t really remember passing out or … I have no recollection, until some point later,” Constand had testified. “I was jolted conscious, jolted awake, and I felt Mr. Cosby’s hand groping my breast under my shirt and inside my vagina, moving in and out. I felt him place my hand on his penis and move it back and forth.”

Though Cosby did not take the stand himself, he maintained for years that the encounter was consensual. Led by Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa, the defense team sought to show that Cosby and Constand were romantically involved. Sexual orientation did not come up at Cosby’s trial, but attorney Dolores Troiani wrote about Constand being gay in a 2015 court filing. 

After the mistrial announcement Saturday, Cosby’s wife made a point of thanking McMonagle and Agrusa, as well as the Cosby family and those she said had supported and never gave up on her husband.

Constand says the assault occurred in January or February 2004, and that she left her position at Temple by March. She returned to her family’s home in Canada, ultimately waiting until January 2005 to report Cosby to the police.

Cosby reached an undisclosed civil settlement with Constand after Montgomery County prosecutors initially declined to bring charges in her case.

The allegations all but faded from the public eye until a stand-up bit about Cosby’s image by comedian Hannibal Buress went viral in 2014.

Just as the 12-year statute of limitations was set to run on Constand’s claims, the new district attorney of Montgomery County reopened her case and brought charges against Cosby.

With assistance from publicist Andrew Wyatt, Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday for day 3 of his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pa. (Pool photo via Courthouse News by ED HILLE / The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Critical to that development was a federal judge’s decision to unseal deposition testimony that Cosby gave in the 2005 case. Citing significant interest, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno found that Cosby narrowed the zone of privacy by casting himself as a public moralist. In the deposition, Cosby admitted to giving quaaludes to women before having sex with them.

This pronouncement was read aloud to the jury last week by one of the state’s witnesses, as was Cosby’s admission that he had seven prescriptions for the sedative over the years and never used any of them himself.

Of the dozens of other Cosby accusers, all of whom are statutorily barred from bringing claims against Cosby themselves, Judge O’Neill permitted only one to testify against Cosby at trial, along with Constand.

Kelly Johnson met Cosby while working for his agent in Los Angeles at the William Morris Talent Agency.

She testified that she was supposed to get lunch with Cosby at the Bel Air Hotel one day in 1996, but that Cosby answered the door to his bungalow in a robe and slippers.

Johnson told the jury that Cosby gave her a pill, saying she needed to relax, and then checked under her tongue to make sure she swallowed it.

Shortly after, her vision blurred and Johnson recalled waking up to “grunting sounds” in the bedroom. She said Cosby was behind her, her breasts were exposed, and that Cosby “made me touch his penis.”

Like many of Cosby’s accusers, Johnson is represented by Gloria Allred — a celebrity attorney whom Cosby’s publicist called out in a statement after the mistrial decision.

“Gloria Allred should go back to law school and take another class,” said Andrew Wyatt, who has been as regular a fixture at courthouse as Cosby, usually seen beside his client, at the arm Cosby isn’t using to hold a cane.

Gianna Constand, the mother of Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, leaves the courtroom on June 12, 2017, after closing arguments in the comedian’s sexual-assault trial in the Montgomery County Courthouse. (Pool photo via Courthouse News Service by DAVID MAIALETTI / The Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Power is back, and the legacy is restored,” Wyatt also said.

In addition to Constand, Johnson and each woman’s mother, the jury heard testimony from a slew of law enforcement officials, one toxicologist and one forensic psychologist.

Many of the other Cosby accusers who were not allowed to testify watched the trial in the courtroom gallery. Cosby had been required to attend all the hearings as condition of his $1 million bond.

The initial criminal case in 2005 was opened by former Assistant District Attorney Risa Furman, who is now Judge Furman in Montgomery County.

Constand brought a federal defamation complaint against Furman’s former boss, former District Attorney Bill Castor, in 2005, saying he was exploiting her ordeal for political gain. Castor ran unsuccessfully against Steele for the district attorney job in 2015.

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