Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial explained


Bill Cosby
Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby arrived in court Monday for the start of his sexual assault trial.

The 79-year-old comedian, once known as “America’s Dad,” is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand more than a decade ago.

Cosby arrived to the Montgomery County courthouse with actress Keshia Knight Pullman who played his daughter Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”

While dozens of other women with eerily similar stories have accused Cosby of sexual assault as well, this is the only criminal case to be brought against him.

Constand alleges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her while at his Pennsylvania home in 2004. She is expected to testify at the trial and share her story.

Cosby has been charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault.

With so many accusations from so many different women, Cosby’s reputation over the past few years has been shattered, and that’s sure to complicate the upcoming trial even more.

Here’s everything you need to know about the case.

What are the allegations against him in court?

While Constand was employed as Temple University’s director of operations for the women’s basketball team between 2001 and 2004, she met Cosby, an alumnus of the Philadelphia college, according to court documents. Eventually the pair “developed what [Constand] believed to be a sincere friendship,” and she looked to Cosby as a mentor, the court documents state.

Constand alleges that Cosby made sexual advances on multiple occasions and that she turned them down. But Constand is accusing Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her during one specific visit to his home sometime between mid-January and mid-February of 2004.

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According to court documents, Constand — then 30 years old — told Cosby about the anxiety she had regarding her career and said she felt “drained.” Cosby offered “three blue pills” that he said were “herbal” and instructed her to take them as they would “take the edge off,” court documents allege.

Constand said she took the pills with water but also sipped on wine as Cosby had instructed.

Within 20 to 30 minutes of taking the pills, Constand said her vision became blurry, and she had difficulty speaking, according to a probable cause affidavit. She also described not being aware of sounds or time and feeling as though she was “in and out.”

Court documents describe, in graphic detail, the alleged sexual assault.  “The victim told investigators that she did not consent to any of these acts, and was unable to move or speak during the assault,” the documents say.

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Constand said she couldn’t remember any kissing or intercourse between them, according to statements she gave police.

Cosby has maintained that the sexual activity between the two was consensual, and she never said “no.”

Why is Cosby on trial for something that allegedly happened in 2004?

Constand didn’t tell anyone about the night in question for a year, according to People. She said she finally told her mother, Gianna Constand, on Jan. 13, 2005.

Upon learning of her daughter’s alleged assault, Gianna Constand made two calls — one to Cosby and one to the police in their town of Ontario, Canada.

The younger Constand said that “an element of fear” was what kept her silent about the incident for so long.

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“Before I was going to say anything to anyone, I had to put my own thoughts and feelings together. I was emotionally shocked. I was still traumatized about the whole situation,” Constand told People. “I had some emotional stress I was dealing with. I needed to come to terms with this on my own.”

In 2005, Constand sued Cosby. The suit included 13 Jane Does who also accused Cosby of wrongdoing.

The case was settled for an undisclosed amount the following year.

A federal court unsealed documents from the lawsuit in 2015 at the request of the Associated Press.

A judge ruled in December 2016 that potentially damning testimony Cosby gave in the civil suit can be used in the upcoming trial. In the testimony, Cosby admitted to buying Quaaludes and giving women drugs and alcohol before having sex.

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Cosby has demanded in court that Constand return the confidential settlement money as she broke the terms of the agreement by talking to police without first notifying him.

Constand’s lawyers said the settlement allows for Constand to talk to police and withhold it from Cosby at the request of law enforcement officials — a request the lawyer said she received.

What are the details of the trial?

The trial begins today in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Jurors were selected from outside Montgomery County due to the extensive local media coverage of the case.

Montgomery County judge Steven O’Neill will preside over the case.

O’Neill said in April that the trial is expected to take two weeks. However, it is unclear how long the jury will deliberate until a verdict is reached.

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The estimation of how long the trial would last was somewhat surprising, considering the length of time since the charges were filed  — in December 2015 — and the multiple pretrial hearings since then.

What about the other women? Will they be at the trial?

Cosby’s June 5 trial is only about his encounters with and alleged assault of Constand.

However, one other woman who has accused Cosby of sexual misconduct as a Jane Doe in the original civil suit will be permitted to testify at the trial.

But just because some women cannot testify or bring charges of their own due to the statute of limitations, that won’t necessarily keep them away.

Victoria Valentino and Therese Serignese will be at the trial as it is “important for us to show our faces,” Valentino said.

Now 74, Valentino claims that she was drugged and raped by Cosby in 1969. Serignese said she was given Quaaludes by Cosby backstage at an event in 1976.

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Donna Motsinger, who said she was one of the Jane Does in Constand’s suit, will not attend.

“It’s not about me,” she said.

What happens if Cosby is found guilty?

If Cosby is found guilty, he could spend 10 years behind bars.

How is Cosby’s health?

Cosby’s lawyers said in November 2016 that the septuagenarian is too blind to be able to identify his accusers in pictures or help with the defense.

Cosby said earlier this year that he is completely blind.

He’s also been seen struggling with his coat and walking with the help of an aide as he enters court.

Cosby’s lawyer, Monica Pressley, has said that her client’s health is “not a defense to a charge,” but instead a “fact.”

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How could statute of limitations affect the allegations against Cosby?

Cosby was charged just as Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire Constand’s case against her former mentor.

Sexual assault victims over the age of 18 have 12 years to report an assault in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Victims under the age of 18 and born after 2002 have 32 years after their 18th birthday to file charges; if born before 2002, underage victims have 12 years to report after their 18th birthday.

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For Constand, the statute of limitations was set to expire in January 2016; Cosby was charged in December 2015.

The comedian is protected from many of the sexual assault allegations he faces from other women because of statute of limitations laws.

Does race play a factor in this case?

In a May 2017 interview, Cosby alleged that race “could be” a reason for the onslaught of sexual assault accusations against him.

“There are many tentacles,” he said. “So many different — nefarious is a great word — and I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that.”

Daughter Ensa Cosby said in a statement in May that she believes her father is innocent and a victim of racism.

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“I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal,” she said. “How the charges came against him, how people believed them before they were ever scrutinized or tested, how people who questioned the claims were shut down and ignored.”

Cosby’s defense has also alleged racial bias in jury selection. His lawyers argued in May that Pennsylvania prosecutors “systematically” tried to keep black jurors off the panel after the prosecution struck two black women from the jury.

There are two black jurors on the 12-person panel. Five of the 12 people on the jury are women.

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Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial explained

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