NORRISTOWN, Pa.— A mistrial has been declared in the criminal trial of Bill Cosby, an entertainer so beloved he was dubbed America’s Dad, so powerful his value was estimated at $400 million, and who in recent years has watched his entire empire crumble as dozens of women came forward saying he drugged, then raped them. It was in the case of one of those women that Montgomery County prosecutors brought charges of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He faced up to 30 years in prison on the charges.
The decision came after more than 50 hours of deliberations by jurors, who started their process late Monday afternoon.
Despite so many women speaking out with similar stories, only one allegation has resulted in criminal charges—the case of Andrea Constand, a basketball player who, at the time, also worked for the women’s basketball team at Temple, where Cosby was a prominent trustee. Constand said he was a mentor to her and gained her trust, which he then used against her the night she came to his house to talk about her future. That night in early 2004, she said, he gave her three pills, calling them “your three friends to help you relax,” and told her they were herbal. She took them. All Constand remembers next, she told jurors last week, was being jolted awake, Cosby grabbing her breasts, and his hand inside her vagina. Then he took his hand and put it on his penis.
Constand left Temple and returned to Canada, where she started studying to become a massage therapist, like her father. But her family noticed something was wrong, and her mother, Gianna, testified to noticing her daughter having nightmares. Andrea Constand said nothing, even helping her family get tickets to see Cosby perform in Canada, until about a year later when she broke down and told her mother. They reported it to Canadian police, who passed them on to police in the Philadelphia area.
Gianna Constand called Cosby and confronted him. She testified about that phone call at the trial, saying Cosby told her that he was a sick man and talked openly about giving her daughter an orgasm. On the advice of her son-in-law, a police officer, Gianna Constand bought a recording device, and taped her next call with Cosby, which was played for jurors. In it, Cosby offered to help set up an educational trust for Constand, although even Cosby later admitted that the family never asked him for money or threatened to extort him.
Cosby, in a sitdown flanked by lawyers at a New York City office, said during the 2005 investigation that the sex had been consensual. His lawyers said the pills were Benadryl. This evidence was given to police and prosecutors but then-district attorney Bruce Castor closed the case without charges. Constand sued Cosby in civil court but, just as the case appeared ready to break open the nasty Hollywood machinery that keeps stars protected and projecting squeaky clean images, the lawsuit was settled. It sat, silently, for nearly a decade.
And then the entire facade unraveled. As more women came forward, the Associated Press asked to unseal multiple key documents from the Constand case. A judge agreed, unsealed them, and the documents provided pieces of a damning depositions of Cosby. The New York Times and several other publications got copies of the full depositions and wrote features based on the lurid details: How Cosby used celebrity, power, drugs, and and the promise of mentorship to coerce them into sex.
Using that same deposition, Montgomery County prosecutors reopened the investigation and, weeks before the statute of limitations ran out, charged Cosby. The entire time, since Constand first talked to police until this month’s trial, Cosby’s legal team has insisted there was no case. The sex, Cosby insisted in his deposition and police interview, was consensual.
The trial, once predicted to last at least two weeks, wrapped up in much less. The prosecution spent a full week bringing witness after witness, building a case that, they said, showed Cosby had a pattern of gaining women’s trust, then drugging them and forcing them to perform sex acts. The most powerful testimony came from two mothers—Partrice Sewell and Gianna Constand—who both testified following their daughters about the changes they noticed in their children and how it affected their families. Gianna Constand’s testimony was so powerful—she spared no punch in describing the lurid details of what Cosby told her about making her daughter orgasm, while avoiding giving the defense lawyer an inch—that Maclean’s headlined her testimony “At the Bill Cosby trial, ‘Canada’s Mom’ slays ‘America’s Dad.’”
After a full week of the prosecution’s case, the defense started and ended in less than 10 minutes. The defense called one witness, only so they could get another police document into evidence, then rested. Instead of presenting character witnesses to refute the assault on Cosby’s persona, defense lawyer Brian McMonagle argued there wasn’t a strong enough case to refute. All the evidence he needed was right there, and he spent an hour and a half going over every detail Constand ever got wrong, every phone call she ever made to Cosby after the night she says she was assaulted, and all the times Cosby told police it was consensual. It was a performance that included stories about little girls eating ice cream, anecdotes about his own wife, and even mentioned the Bible.
District Attorney Kevin Steele, whose campaign included TV ads emphasizing how his opponent had not charged Cosby back in 2005, gave an even longer, more subdued closing argument. He went through the letter of the law, walking jurors through statutory definitions. He played old recordings of Cosby offering Andrea Constand an educational trust, followed by various Hollywood handlers and lawyers reaching out and leaving phone messages as well, and asked jurors to think about, if Cosby was so innocent, why was he acting so guilty.
In the end, Cosby’s guilt was only up for the jury of five women and seven men to decide.
Update (10:32 a.m.):
Update (11:02 a.m.):
Update (11:14 p.m.): Gloria Allred gave a subdued press conference afterward, saying this was not a victory for Cosby. With her were Jewel Allison and Linda Kirkpatrick, who both have said Cosby drugged and raped them.
“It’s too early to celebrate Mr. Cosby,” she said. “Round two may be just around the corner.”
Allred also said she hopes the court in the future will allow more testimony from “prior bad act” witnesses—the dozens of women who say Cosby drugged and raped them in a similar manner.
“Never give up,” she said. “Never give in, never give up.”
Update (11:28 p.m.): Camille Cosby, who never spoke or testified during her husband’s trial, sent out the following statement through their family spokesman. In it, she slams District Attorney Kevin Steele, the lawyers for all the women who say her husband raped them, and the media.
How do I describe the District Attorney? Heinously and exploitively ambitious. How do I describe the judge? Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney. How do I describe the counsels for the accusers? Totally unethical. How do I describe many, but not all, general media? Blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truths for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.
Historically, people have challenged injustices. I am grateful to any of the jurors who tenaciously fought to review the evidence; which is the rightful way to make a sound decision....ultimately, that is a manifestation of justice, based on facts, not lies. As a very special friend once stated, “truth can be subdued, but not destroyed.”
Moreover, I express humongous gratitude to counselors Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa for their hard work. Mr. McMonagle for his passionate and powerful articulations of truths; Ms. Agrusa for her thorough research to bolster Counsel McMonagle; to Mr. Andrew Wyatt for his unequivocal skills in public relations; to our team, who worked diligently and intelligently; to our staffs for their continuous commitment to our family and me....and to our children, grandchildren, and other family who loves us...and to our dear friends and supporters, who never gave up on us, despite it all.
Update (12:37 p.m.): District Attorney Kevin Steele spoke this afternoon. He refused to address Camille Cosby’s comments about him. He did talk about retrying the case, saying, “Our plan is moving this case forward as soon as possible.” Like Allred earlier, he tried to focus the positive.
“There’s some good outcomes that have come from this,” Steele said. “Despite the fact that the jury couldn’t come to a verdict in this case, Andrea Constand and [Kelly Johnson] got to face the defendant in court and tell what happened to them.”
He specifically praised Constand multiple times for her strength and courage moving forward with the case. He said that Constand had indicated to them that she will participate in another trial.
“She entitled to a verdict in this case,” Steele said. “We will push forward and try to get that done and get justice done. Our job in this, as prosecutors, is we should take on the tough cases.”
To victims of rape who saw what happened as a loss, he offered this:
“We hope that people will understand if they come forward we’re going to listen and they will be heard and they will be treated with respect and courtesy through this,” he said. “They are victims of a crime, and that’s our job. To do that, do it in the right way, and we will continue to do that.”
His emotions showing, just a bit, he called his job “the greatest job I have ever had.”
Update (3:44 p.m.): Here is the statement from Andrea Constand’s lawyers, via the Huffington Post.
On behalf of Andrea Constand and ourselves, we would like to thank the dedicated individuals of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office in particular Kevin Steele, Kristen Peden arid Stewart Ryan and the many police officers and detectives who worked on this case, in particular Rich Schaffer, Jim Reape and Mike Shade. We wish to thank the Honorable Risa Vietri Ferman, who authorized the prosecution. We could not begin to name the many people who have worked so diligently in pursuit of justice, not only for Andrea but for all victims of sexual assault.
From the moment she revealed what had happened to her, Andrea sought to have this matter addressed in the criminal justice system. Given the manner in which she was dismissed by the previous district attorney, she had no option but to file a civil suit. We are confident that these proceedings have given a voice to the many victims who felt powerless and silenced. We commend those prosecutors who raised awareness that one of the hallmarks of drug related sexual assaults is the affect the drug has on the victim’s memory and ability to recall and were nonetheless willing to present this evidence to the jury.
We also wish to thank the jury for their tireless efforts and acknowledge their sacrifice.
Andrea and her family are asking everyone to respect her privacy at this time. Please do not try to contact her or her family.