NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – Calling the sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby a sham, the defense’s star witness testified Wednesday that the comedian’s chief accuser confided in her years ago about planning to frame a celebrity.
Marguerite “Margo” Jackson says she met Andrea Constand through Temple University where both women worked for the women’s basketball team, Jackson as an academic adviser and Constand as director of operations.
Though Constand says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his suburban Philadelphia home in January 2004, Jackson told the court this afternoon that Constand told her a different story later that year.
On Feb. 1, 2004, Jackson says she and Constand were rooming together on a road trip with the team to Rhode Island.
Lining up with an affidavit Jackson signed earlier this year, she testified that she and Constand had been watching the hotel television when the news reported on a celebrity who had been accused of sexual assault.
“Oh wow,” Jackson quoted Constand as saying, “something similar happened to me.”
Jackson said Constand told her she had been assaulted by a “high-profile person,” but wouldn’t report it because she couldn’t prove it.
When Jackson encouraged Constand to speak out, she said Constand switched gears, admitting no assault occurred.
“No it didn’t, but I could say it did,” Constand said, according to Jackson’s testimony. “I could say it happened, get that money. I could quit my job. I could go back to school. I could open up a business.”
Constand did report that Cosby assaulted her in 2005, but the district attorney in Montgomery County opted not to prosecute the case at the time, and Constand resorted to filing a civil suit.
Roughly a decade after that case settled for $3.4 million, new scrutiny of Cosby led Montgomery County’s new DA to indict the comedian.
Judge Steven O’Neill permitted Jackson to testify this afternoon though he barred her from taking the stand at Cosby’s first trial last year, which ended in a hung jury.
Cross-examining Jackson late Wednesday, a prosecutor pointed to records from Temple that do not include the University of Rhode Island as one of the away games Jackson traveled to in 2004.
Cosby’s attorneys did not produce any documentation to support Jackson’s claim she was on the trip.
Describing how she got involved in the case, Jackson testified that she had been on a cruise in November 2016 when she met a comedian who referenced the Cosby allegations while offering to buy her a drink.
“I won’t put anything in it,” he told her, according to Jackson’s testimony.
Jackson said they got to talking, and that the comedian then put her in touch with Cosby’s attorneys.
Prior to Jackson taking the stand, the jury heard testimony from Constand and five other women who claim that Cosby drugged and assaulted them decades earlier.
Cosby does not face criminal charges with regard to these other women and has maintained that all of the sexual encounters described were consensual.
While the comedian sought in the last trial sought to cast his relationship with Constand as a consensual affair, his new defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, has taken a more aggressive tack.
Mesereau told the jury in his opening statement that Constand is a con artist who baited Cosby into a sexual relationship so that she could later extort a big payout.
Constand testified earlier this week that she does not “recall ever having a conversation with” Jackson. She also denied that she set Cosby up.
Before the prosecution wrapped up their case earlier today, Judge O’Neill permitted them to read aloud to the jury Cosby’s deposition testimony from the 2005 civil case.
Cosby contends that the pills Constand says had left her incapacitated were only Benadryl, but Cosby admitted in the deposition that he often kept quaaludes on hand, not for himself, but to give them to women before having sex with them.
“The same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink,’” Cosby explained.
As to the encounter with Constand, Cosby testified that there was “petting,” that Constand never told him to stop, and that he “enjoyed it.”
The jury heard from Constand meanwhile that she was immobile as Cosby penetrated her with his fingers and made her touch his penis.
Before reading Cosby’s testimony to the jury, prosecutors interrogated the book publisher of another Cosby accuser, television personality Janice Dickinson.
The former “America’s Next Top Model” star was one of five Cosby accusers who testified earlier in the trial, but Cosby’s defense argued that Dickinson’s own memoir undercut her testimony.
On Wednesday, publisher Judith Regan confirmed that Dickinson wanted to accuse Cosby of assault in the memoir, but that the company’s legal department wouldn’t let them print the details without a corroborating witness.
If convicted, Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of three charges of aggravated indecent assault against Constand.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.