NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—Bill Cosby’s defense team had its turn talking to jurors today, with lawyer Tom Mesereau telling the court that Andrea Constand was a woman with a plan to extort millions of dollars from Bill Cosby and Constand executed that plan to perfection. He spun what happened as a classic Hollywood tale: that Cosby was the successful man, and Constand was the con artist out to pull off a swindle. To underscore his premise, he repeated that Constand was just after Cosby’s money, over and over again.
It was a notably different opening statement from Cosby’s first criminal trial last year, in which Brian McMonagle gave a long and passionate opening statement insisting that Constand was a scorned lover and Cosby was an imperfect man who made a mistake by being unfaithful to his wife. As part of an entirely new legal team, Mesereau differed from his predecessor and kept his voice calm and level, turning McMonagle’s upset, dumped woman into another archetype—the methodical con artist, like so many who attach themselves to successful people in Hollywood.
“You’re going to be saying to yourself in this trial, what does she want from Bill Cosby, and you already know the answer,” Mesereau told jurors. “Money, money, and lots more money.”
Every piece of possible evidence he discussed eventually reverted back to this narrative. After talking to jurors about inconsistencies in Constand’s early statements to police, he closed his point by suddenly raising his voice into the mic. “A con artist is what you get, members of the jury,” said Mesereau. “We’ll prove it. A con artist.”
He also discussed a witness who didn’t testify in the last trial, but is expected to testify this time—Marguerite “Margo” Jackson. The defense requested her testimony last time, but Judge Steven O’Neill didn’t allow her because Constand said she didn’t know Jackson. Since then, the new defense team has found other people who said under oath that Constand and Jackson did know each other, so O’Neill has allowed her testimony.
Speaking to jurors for about 50 minutes, Mesereau went over what he saidthat Jackson will tell jurors: While rooming with Constand during a Temple basketball road trip, Constand told Jackson that she had been assaulted by a powerful person. But Jackson thought that “something was wrong with Ms. Constand’s demeanor,” so Jackson kept pushing with more questions.
“She had a further discussion with Ms. Constand, and Ms. Constand asked her why do so many of these women make cases of sexual assault. Margo said, well, some of them want money and she looked at her and said, ‘Were you really assaulted,’” Mesereau said, adding that this was Constand’s reply: “No, but I can say I was. I can set up a celebrity and get a lot of money for my education and my business.”
Mesereau said that Jackson was on a cruise when she heard that Constand had filed a police report about Cosby, and that her reaction was, “Oh my God, she did it.”
From there, Mesereau went on to create an image of Cosby as a weakened man going through a difficult time. He brought up what was going on in Cosby’s personal life at the time, which had largely been left out by the previous defense team. Mesereau talked about the 1997 murder of Cosby’s son, Ennis, and told jurors that Cosby confided in Constand that he never recovered from his son’s death. The attorney also brought up the extortion plot against Cosby from the same year.
“He was lonely and troubled and he made the terrible mistake of confiding in his person what was going on in his life,” Mesereau said.
Mesereau had counterpoints for the issues the prosecution had raised. He said they had an expert who would testify that at the time, Benadryl could be blue. He said the portions of the Cosby deposition used by the prosecution were “out of context” and that jurors would “not be pleased” when they learned what had been left out. To the portions of the settlement agreement, Mesereau showed his own selection, the one in which it says that this is not an admission of any wrongdoing or fault and it being done to avoid annoyance and further litigation. If anything, Mesereau told jurors, the fact that Constand accepted a settlement with a nondisclosure agreement was proof that she was just in it for the payout.
“If you’re doing it for principle, you aren’t making it confidential, you aren’t getting paid off,” Mesereau said. “You’re basically saying, ‘I was violated and I’m announcing this to the planet, because I’m doing this on principle.’ The only principle was money, money, money.”
As Cosby’s former team did in the previous trial, Mesereau went over the parts of Constand’s statements that were inconsistent. He talked about Constand’s many phone calls to Cosby after the night she said she was assaulted. He talked about how it had been Constand going to Cosby’s house, not the other way around.
But the framing was different in this trial. Instead of references to love, Mesereau used phrases like “all that glitters isn’t always gold” and “she was madly in love with his fame and money” and “she knew Mr. Cosby was extremely wealthy.” He said Constand was always complaining about money and had a history of financial problems “until she hits the jackpot with Bill Cosby.” He added that the defense had an email where Constand “ admits she is running a pyramid scheme at Temple.” He did not go into any further details about the email or the pyramid scheme.
Mesereau, himself based in Los Angeles, did his best to frame this as a Hollywood story. He talked about Cosby’s fame and how Hollywood is a “treacherous” place where “if you’re a young star, everyone wants a piece of you.” Cosby was famous, Constand knew this, and the plan worked, Mesereau said.
“Betrayal? Does it sound like Bill Cosby betrayed her,” Mesereau said, “or did she try to use him and milk him for more than $3 million dollars?”
Regardless of what the “shallow media” tells jurors, he said near the end, “You’re going to say to yourselves Mr. Cosby isn’t guilty. He’s no criminal. He was foolish. He was ridiculous. He was lonely and attracted to a younger woman but he didn’t commit the crime. He’s not a criminal and you will gladly find him not guilty.”