Bill Cosby trial

Bill Cosby’s lawyer says of alleged sexual assault: ‘It was romantic’

The celebrity listened intently during the opening statements during Day 1 of his criminal trial in Norristown.

Bill Cosby walks into Montgomery County court.

Bill Cosby walks into Montgomery County court.

POOL PHOTO by DAVID MAIALETTI / The Philadelphia Inquirer

NORRISTOWN — Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden began by telling the jurors to consider a statement made by Bill Cosby.

“These three friends will help you relax,” Feden said, recounting what he once told attorneys in a deposition. “His words, his voice that we know so well as he approached Andrea Constand with pills in his hand.”

Cosby himself stood a few feet away, dressed in a black suit and leaning over in his chair, far removed from his previous position of celebrity and power. The lone sexual assault trial he’s likely to face despite dozens of accusations finally started this morning, with the prosecution and defense giving opening statements.

The prosecution is attempting to prove Cosby assaulted Constand in 2004 and is guilty of three counts of indecent aggravated assault.

Cosby appeared to be listening intently during the opening statements. When Feden told the jurors they would see Cosby as he really is and not the illusions from his television roles, his attorney Brian McMonagle put his arm around Cosby’s shoulder. He also brought up Cosby’s blindness during his opening statement.

“He can’t see,” McMonagle said. “It’s up to me to describe you to him.”

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle.

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle.

Pool photo via AFP

McMonagle asked the jurors to see his client as a citizen, and largely stayed away from references to his fame or career. That was far from the image the prosecution attempted to portray. Feden said Cosby used his megawatt reputation as a famous comedian and a leader at Temple, where Constand worked, to begin a mentor-protege relationship. After what Feden termed as two attempts where Constand turned down Cosby’s advances, she went to his house to discuss career advice. This is when he brought her what he’s said were 1.5 pills of Benadryl and the alleged sexual assault occurred.

“At that moment he stole from that woman her sense of privacy, her sense of autonomy of her own body,” Feden said. “He positioned himself behind her and touched on her breast. He grabbed her limp hand and placed it on his penis and masturbated himself with her hand. That wasn’t enough. He shoves his fingers into her vagina.”

She said, “Trust, betrayal and an inability to consent. That’s what this case is about.”

Feden described the witnesses the prosecution would call and evidence it would use — Constand, Constand’s mother, a toxicologist, Cosby’s deposition and police interviews and another accuser — and said the stories the defense would bring up were distractions.

Rather than use the words of Cosby, McMonagle focused on those of Constand and how she gave differing versions of the story to the police when this case was first investigated in 2005. He portrayed their relationship as being closer to a loving one, describing a time when she spent the night in Cosby’s hotel bed, before the alleged sexual assault, and saying she called him 53 times after the assault occurred.

Of the evening in question during this case, McMonagle paraphrased Cosby’s words that he gave to the police: “She wasn’t paralyzed. She wasn’t incapacitated. It was romantic.” He said Cosby made her breakfast the next morning.  

McMonagle continually brought up variations of the metaphor about how a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. He asked the jury to see Cosby not as the comedian or someone who had been untruthful to his wife, but as a citizen.

Both attorneys spoke for about 45 minutes each. When they finished, Judge Steven T. O’Neill said, “Guess how much evidence you’ve heard? That much.” And he pinched his fingers together closely together.

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.

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