NORRISTOWN — A jury tasked with deciding whether or not internationally known comedian and longtime Temple University benefactor Bill Cosby sexually assaulted a woman in 2004 has deadlocked, and the judge has called a mistrial.
After the decision was announced, prosecutors said they plan to re-try the case. Given Cosby’s stature, the cost of resources to try him and the necessity of a witness willing to testify again, a second trial could be an uphill climb for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.
A jury of seven men and five women spent more than five days deliberating the charges: three counts of aggravated indecent assault filed in connection with an incident in which a woman said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her inside his Cheltenham home more than 12 years ago. On Thursday, the Allegheny County jury first reported that it was deadlocked, but Judge Steven O’Neill asked them to return to deliberations and attempt to come to an agreement. During the course of their deliberations they asked to re-hear several parts of testimony, including statements from officers and the portions of Cosby’s deposition where he talked about giving quaaludes to women and his recollection of the night of the alleged assault.
The mistrial decision gives Cosby what most will consider a shocking victory. Nearly 60 women have accused him of sexually assaulting them at some point over the last 50 years. His reputation may still be in tatters, but for now he’ll be a free man. And it’s unlikely any other accusation will lead to criminal charges as the statute of limitations has expired for most of the women who have come forward.
Cosby did not testify on his own behalf during the trial, despite rumors that circulated during the first week of the trial. In fact, his defense team called only one witness: a detective who they questioned for about five minutes. The key testimony of the trial belonged to Andrea Constand.
Constand, the woman at the center of the charges filed against Cosby, spent nearly eight hours over two days on the witness stand. The former Temple University employee explained to the courtroom last week that Cosby gave her three blue pills on the 2004 night in question, and that she believed them to be herbal supplements. Shortly after, she said she had trouble standing up and was slurring her words.
“I have no recollection until, at some point later, I was jolted conscious — jolted awake,” she testified. “And I felt Mr. Cosby’s hand groping my breasts under my shirt. I also felt his hand inside my vagina moving in and out. And I felt him take my hand and place it on his penis and move it back and forth.”
Cosby’s defense team attempted to induce doubt among jurors by bringing up differing timelines provided by Constand when she first went to the cops. It also characterized her relationship with Cosby as romantic, detailing other times they were alone together before the night of the alleged assault, and pointed out how the Montgomery District Attorney’s office originally declined to press charges in 2005.
“We’re not here because of Andrea Constand. That was over in 2005. We’re here because of this nonsense,” said Philadelphia defense attorney Brian McMonagle in his closing statement, gesturing toward reporters and a row of women who also say Cosby sexually assaulted them. “We’re here because of them.”
Cosby might never have been charged if not for events that happened 10 years after the alleged assault. In fall 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a “rapist” at Philadelphia show. The bit went viral, with then-Philly Mag reporter Dan McQuade publishing it in a blog post.
In the coming months, dozens of women came forward saying they were sexually assaulted by Cosby. Though there ended up being nearly 60 accusers, it’s likely Constand’s case will remain the only one to result in criminal charges.
In December 2015, the statute of limitations winding down, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office — led by Kevin Steele, who campaigned on re-opening the case into Cosby — charged the comedian with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Officials cited newly-publicized testimony from a 2005 deposition in a civil case filed by Constand. While under oath, Cosby testified that he’d given Quaaludes to women whom he wanted to have sex with.
Following the charges were months of pre-trial motions, delaying the trial for a year and a half. There were a number of issues to iron out before the trial, namely whether or not other women besides Constand who have accused Cosby of sexual assault would be allowed to testify. To that end, Judge Steven T. O’Neill ruled that only one woman besides Constand would be allowed to tell her story to the jury.
That woman testified first in the criminal trial. Kelly Johnson, who formerly worked as an assistant at a Hollywood firm that represented Cosby, told jurors that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in the 90s at a hotel in Bel Air, Calif.
Constand’s mother was another main witness for the prosecution. She recounted how after learning of her daughter’s sexual assault claim she called Cosby and heard him say, “mom, she even had an orgasm.”
Cosby’s defense team didn’t dispute much of the facts, but instead claimed the encounter was consensual. The defense team agreed Cosby provided pills to Constand one night in 2004 and a sexual encounter occurred. Constand said she did not consent and was unable to consent.
During his closing argument, defense attorney McMonagle painted Constand as a liar, saying statements she gave to police in 2005 contradicted what she later told law enforcement about the timing of the encounter. He also described Cosby as an imperfect philanderer — not a sexual predator.
“When you dance outside your marriage, you got to pay the band. And he danced,” McMonagle said, pointing toward Cosby’s wife, Camille, who sat in the front row during the defense’s closing argument Monday. “And she deserved better.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors told the jury that Cosby was more calculating, describing a man who sought out Constand’s friendship so he could eventually give her drugs to make it easier to sexually assault her.
“This is pretty fundamental: lack of consent,” Steele said. “From the defendant’s own words, she never said ‘yes.’ She never said ‘yes’ to this.”