NORRISTOWN, Pa.—At some point, Andrea Constand’s story became not her own.
At first it was because of the media trucks, parked in front of her family’s home back in Canada before she even had a chance to talk to police in person back in Pennsylvania. Then it was the machinations in which the American legal system works, where police and lawyers are supposed to do the talking for you. And then it was due to a nondisclosure agreement, practically par for the course in American civil suits, especially those involving someone with the wealth and fame of Bill Cosby, which didn’t allow her to talk about the night she said the once legendary comedian drugged her, then sexually assaulted her at his own home. Her story was always invoked by someone else—a lawyer, a police officer, a court document, a candidate for district attorney, or the dozens of women who came forward after her.
On Tuesday, finally, Constand spoke for herself about what happened that night. She told it with a powerful composure, while under oath and with Cosby sitting just feet away, never losing her cool even under cross examination (which wasn’t wrapped up today and will be concluded tomorrow). Her account will be the most detailed one given to jurors, as Cosby’s legal team has said he won’t testify.
Her testimony will be, for those who have followed the Cosby case closely, in some ways quite familiar. But this time, for the first time in a long time, Constand was able to speak directly about what happened in her own words.
She took the stand in a gray blazer and white shirt. Reporters craned their necks to see her, the wooden benches where we all sat creaking along with us. In a courtroom where it can be hard to hear people, she spoke loudly and clearly. She would often look at jurors as she answered questions, as if she were talking directly to them. With composure, she answered questions from assistant district attorney Kristen Feden* and said what happened leading up to and after the night she says Cosby assaulted her.
They met at a Temple basketball game, where Cosby was a trustee and prominent alum and Constand was the director of operations for the women’s basketball team. She was introduced to him by another trustee and Temple donor, Joan Ballots. Cosby wanted to see the women’s locker room, which he had heard had new carpeting and new lockers. So Constand said she and a few maintenance workers showed him round. It was short, maybe 10 minutes.
A few weeks later, he called her office phone saying he still had some questions about the fixtures and carpeting. It was a questions that then-head coach Dawn Staley ended up answering, she said, but Cosby would still call her at the office because he had questions about the team, things like what was going on with the basketball schedule. As time passed, he got to know her and they would talk about things that were a bit more personal. Eventually, he asked her for her personal cell phone number, which she gave him. Then he asked her over to his home.
The first time she went to his home, he told her that she should come by and he’d have the chef prepare whatever she wanted and they could talk. That was exactly what happened, but one moment stuck with Constand, she said, other than the typical getting-to-know-you conversation. What she remembered, specifically, was at one point Cosby sat very close to her and put his hand on her thigh. It seemed suggestive, she said, but then he took it away. She didn’t take anything away from it.
From there it was more invitations to his home. He had her over for a gathering with a few people who worked in the Philadelphia restaurant industry, and again with a group of people from different educational institutions in the area. She took it as Cosby trying to help her get to know people in her adopted city. A third time, he invited her over by herself, again promising dinner by a chef who would cook whatever she liked. They were supposed to talk about Temple and her career. When she was done eating, Cosby sat down beside her, very close and commented on her pants, then touched the side of her waist, and then kept going.
“And then he took his hand and attempted to unbutton my button. And I felt his hand at the top of the zipper and when I felt that I leaned forward,” she said, leaning forward as she said it to show what she had done, “and he took his hand away... I said ‘I’m not here for that, I don’t want that.’”
She didn’t recall what Cosby said, but knows she left soon afterward. Feden then asked her why, after that, she kept seeing Cosby.
“I trusted him,” she said. “I wasn’t scared of him in any way.”
“He was a Temple friend, somebody I trusted”
Cosby continued to reach out to her. He invited her to go to New York City to have dinner with him and a friend who, he said, might be able to help her if she ever decided to pursue sports broadcasting. Constand said she wasn’t too serious about broadcasting—her focus was on Temple basketball—but he was offering her help. Another time Cosby invited her to go to New York City to see a jazz concert. Both times he paid her back for her tickets.
He invited her to visit the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, where he would be performing. She was busy with work and couldn’t commit to being there very long, but the general manager of the place called her and said it would be nice if she could even just come to see it. She did go, had dinner, and got a room, when Cosby asked her to swing by his room to pick up some baked goods he had there. She walked in and recalled him picking things off a cart and talking to her while she sat on the foot of the bed. Cosby came over, just plopped down on the bed, reclined, and closed his eyes. Then the conversation stopped, and his knee brushed against her leg.
“He didn’t say anything,” Constand said. “I didn’t know if something was wrong. He was just silent the whole time and I was probably there for around 10 minutes thinking maybe did he want to talk or what was the reason … I just said I should probably go now you’re tired.”
She later added: “He was a Temple friend, somebody I trusted, a mentor.”
By this time, she had talked to Cosby a bit about how she was considering a career change. After nearly three years at Temple, she wanted to pursue massage therapy, like her father. That was what she expected to discuss when she went over to Cosby’s house that night because, as she said, “I was a bit torn about getting myself together to tell Coach Staley that I was resigning.”
They did talk about that, and then Cosby excused himself while she used the bathroom. He came back with three blue pills in his hand.
“He said ‘This will help you relax.’ I said, ‘What are they, are they natural? Are they herbal?’ And he nodded yes with his head and he said, ‘Put them down, they are your friend, they will take the edge out.’
“I looked at them and said, ‘Three of them?’ And he motioned and said yes and I said ‘Do I put them under my tongue? ... I said ‘What do I do?’ He said, ‘Swallow them.’
She responded: “I trust you.”
Constand said she took all three pills with water. They kept talking but then she started to slur her words. She had trouble seeing Cosby; she described it as being like there were two of him, and her mouth felt like cotton. She couldn’t speak. She told Cosby this, and he told her that she needed to relax. She tried to stand, but her legs weren’t strong enough. Cosby grabbed her arm and helped her over the couch, again telling her to relax.
“I was very concerned I thought I was having a bad reaction. And I was panicking a little bit,” Constand said, “but I knew I couldn’t really go up and get anywhere at the same time.”
What she remembers next was suddenly being jolted awake and feeling Cosby’s hand grabbing her breasts under her shirt.
“I also felt his hand inside my vagina moving in and out,” she said, “And I felt him take my hand and place it on his penis and move it back and forth.”
She paused to take a breath and gather herself. Feden asked her if she told Cosby to stop.
“No,” she said. “I wasn’t able to.”
She wanted to move to get away but she couldn’t, describing it this way: “In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move and my legs to move where I was frozen and those messages didn’t get there. And I was very limp.” She paused for a moment to cry, just a bit. “So I wasn’t able to fight it angrily.”
The next thing she remembered was regaining consciousness at sometime between four and five in the morning. She needed to get home. Cosby offered her a muffin and tea. She took a few sips of tea and the top of the muffin and left. Cosby didn’t say much to her, and she didn’t want to talk either.
“I felt humiliated and I was really confused,” she said, in one of the few times on the stand she became visibly upset, later adding, “I just wanted to go home.”
Telling her family
Cosby invited her to dinner again, after that night, this time to a gathering with teachers and parents from a local high school. She wanted to see him to ask what he had given her. He told her to come to the dinner and she’d be able to talk to him. She had doubts about it, but went anyway, and when she did try to talk to him after it was done.
She said she told him, “Now I want to talk to you about something. What did you give to me when I was there the last time that put me in that state?”
He looked at her, she said on the stand Tuesday, and said “I thought you had an orgasm, didn’t you?”
Constand said she did not. She just wanted to know what he gave her. “He said, ‘Wait, wait, wait,’” and kept talking, she said, but was very evasive. She started to feel uncomfortable and left.
After that, she kept talking to him on the phone, but it was because it had to do with Temple business. When asked to explain why she never stopped returning his phone calls, she explained, “because I thought it would look negative on me.”
She did eventually resign her position from Temple and move back home to Canada. She did not tell her family about the Cosby incident, saying “I did not have the courage” to tell them. Instead, she helped them get tickets to see Cosby perform when he came to Canada. Her mother brought Cosby a gift—a T-shirt—but Constand said she felt horrible. She finally broke down and told them a year later, after she woke up crying from a horrible nightmare. She couldn’t keep it inside anymore.
When she did tell her family, her mother called Cosby. He didn’t answer but he called her back for a phone conversation with her mother, and Constand said she too was on the line. He still would not say what he had given her. But there was one part that Constand recalled, forcefully, in court; “He agreed with everything that I told him and if I’m not mistaken he said again in front of, with my mother on the telephone, that he thought I had an orgasm.”
The prosecutors later played several phone messages left for Constand by representatives of Cosby, including well-known Hollywood power lawyer Marty Singer. In the voicemail, Singer said he wanted to talk about setting up education funds for Constand.
Constand was called late in the day, after the lunch break, and there wasn’t enough time to complete her cross examination. That will be finished tomorrow morning. But what happened so far was not the contentious cross examination that’s expected in sexual assault cases, with a defense lawyer screaming at a witness, “Why are you lying!” It was done by Angela Agrusa of Cosby’s defense team, who did what defense lawyers do—trying to point out inconsistencies. But she never raised her voice and, in return, Constand had strong replies and answers for all the questions raised so far. The proceedings were slow to move.
When Agrusa drilled down into inconsistencies between what Constand told the police when she first reported it and what she was saying today, Constand answered, “I also testified that I was really nervous and I wasn’t able to recall every particular moment that I had seen Mr. Cosby in order or dates. There was a lot, 16 months, to try to compress.” When questioned further, she said she couldn’t speak for the police or why they wrote what they did.
Agrusa also went down a line of questioning about when Constand would describe something as sexual contact versus sexual advances, but that line of questioning ended with the judge himself telling her to move on from it, saying “I think we’re clear on what was said.”
Another line of questioning was about lawyers Constand had called around the time she had reached out to police. But Constand wasn’t flustered by the questioning, calmly replying “yes, ma’am,” that she had been looking for a lawyer.
Cross examination will continue Wednesday morning.