NORRISTOWN, Pa.—Finally, it came. The big, bombastic, “She’s a liar!” defense that’s always expected in the criminal defense of a sexual assault case, even one involving Bill Cosby. Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle delivered it with the drama, passion, and yelling he seemed to be holding back throughout the trial so far. On Monday, he let it all go.
Instead of putting up any defense, McMonagle called one witness, Cheltenham Township Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer. He talked to Schaffer for 10 minutes, using him to just get another police document entered into evidence. After that, the defense rested and then actually presented their argument, which essentially amounted to: Everything the prosecution just showed you is crap. Now, please, believe us instead.
While the defense witness took just 10 minutes, closing statements took close to an hour and a half. It hit every mark in the “don’t believe this woman” playbook: Didn’t she see all the romantic signals? She wasn’t acting raped. She’s a liar. And this is all the fault of the media and lawyers like Gloria Allred.
McMonagle went over slides showing each day Constand talked to police and what she had said. He focused on how her story had changed. He talked a lot about how she had at first reported that she was assaulted in March after a dinner out with some people, including Cosby, then later claimed it had instead occurred sometime in January or February. He also pointed out that she said that she hadn’t been alone with him before.
“The story begins to unravel,” he said, after showing police records from when Constand spoke to Canadian police.
He went over lines she crossed out from her police interviews, such as one in which she’d said that the Cognac was fantastic. He also pointed out that the detail Constand had in her testimony last week, about the directions Cosby gave her about how to take a pill with her tongue, wasn’t in her prior police interviews.
McMonagle talked about the time that Constand said she went over to see Cosby, before she was assaulted, and they sat by the fire and talked while she had some Cognac. McMonagle implied that Constand was crazy to not pick up those signals when that happened. The attorney even invoked his own wife to do it, saying that her first response to him would have been, “Are you really Brian?” It got a laugh. He paused, then said, “Of course it’s romantic!”
He also called back to the night that Constand saw Cosby in his room at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. He made sure to emphasize that “then we both laid down on the bed beside each other.” And why did she go, he asked, after she said Cosby had already tried once to put his hand inside her pants? (Constand had said she stopped him from doing that, a fact he left out.)
“Why on earth would you go to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut into a man’s bedroom if he’s already stuck his hand... after a man unbuttons his pants and puts his hands down your pants,” he said. “Why would you go to Foxwoods?” He also added, in reference to Constand saying she went because Cosby had offered her baked goods, “What, are you kidding me?
McMonagle later declared that this clearly was a romantic relationship and if he had called anyone as much as Constand called Cosby, his wife would think he was having an affair.
McMonagle went over, line by line, each time Constand called Cosby after she said she was assaulted by him. At one point, he just went down the line for the jury.
Near the end, again, the defense showed a slide reminding jurors that Constand called Cosby 72 times after her assault. It was during this presentation that McMonagle was his loudest, save for when he was blaming the media.
“She calls him the 24h. The 24th. The 24th. The 24th... calling, calling, calling. ‘What am I going to do? Where am I going to work? I’m leaving Temple,’” McMonagle said to jurors.
He kept going. He brought up calls on Jan. 25, Jan. 31, again on Jan. 31. One call, they talked for seven minutes. Another, for 20 minutes.
“She’s been sexually assaulted, ladies and gentleman!” McMonagle nearly yelled. “Look at that, 20 minutes.”
He later added: “When you left Pittsburgh, you didn’t leave your common sense. Stop this! Twenty minutes! Two weeks after you say you were drugged and sexually assaulted another.”
During closings, McMonagle said this: “You know why we’re here; let’s be real. Right? Let’s be real. Let’s look each other in the eye and talk about why we’re here. We’re not here because of Andrea Constand. That was over in 2005. We’re here because of this nonsense. We’re here because of them.” He then pointed at the gallery, which had media and alleged victims in it, and banged his chair loudly several times. “Banging the drum, banging the drum.”
This was in line with McMonagle’s repeated assertion that Constand had reached out to lawyers who specialized in sexual assault soon after contacting police.
“It is sickening what happens when lawyers get involved. It is sickening what happened here,” he said.
He did not seem bothered by the fact that he is a lawyer, too.
A defense lawyer has one job: Turn negatives into positives. McMonagle did that. Cosby’s gross conversation with Constand’s mother? A positive. That was Cosby being honest. His client’s conversation with police, clearly given special privileges? No, that was Cosby being benevolent, because he doesn’t have to talk to cops at all. The fact that Cosby didn’t testify? The prosecution already put Cosby’s vision of events in front of the jury. Cosby, McMonagle said, was the honest one. He was the one who talked about petting and touching. That’s why Cosby was so graphic with Gianna Constand. Kelly Johnson was just some woman who went on a media tour who had also changed parts of her story. The quaaludes were irrelevant. Everyone else, McMonagle insisted, was a liar.
One running theme was calling back to a simpler time: When daughters worshipped fathers, when we all meant it when we swore on the Bible, when the media didn’t run amok doing things like reporting on the dozens of women who said Bill Cosby had drugged and raped them. He opened with the image of a daughter looking her father fawningly in the eyes, as he spoon-fed her from a milkshake. He talked in a hushed tone about what a horror it will be that one day that daughter will realize her father isn’t perfect, the same way Cosby has been—in the polite terms of a man paid to say this—“imperfect.” Of course, for women, growing up and realizing your father is not a saint is just part of growing up, not some great formative tragedy. McMonagle also made sure to name-drop his own* wife several times, continuing a long line of men using the women in their lives as proof that they, surely, must be a good one. Wives and daughters. Isn’t that all that women are?
As people tend to do when they wax quixotic about the past, McMonagle left out the ugly parts. The parts where women could be raped by their husbands or where a rape case required proving that a woman had struggled hard enough for it for it to count. Where that daughter, getting spoon-fed ice cream, would even not be allowed to vote as an adult. Of course, McMonagle isn’t paid to talk about those parts.
Perhaps prosecutors will remind them. They’ll have their chance to give their closing arguments shortly.