Just minutes after handcuffs were slipped onto the wrists of Bill Cosby, a police detective walked up to Andrea Constand, the former professional women’s basketball player who had, for 13 long years, unwaveringly maintained that the legendary actor had drugged and sexually assaulted her.
The door swung open, and there waiting for Constand were six or seven — she doesn’t remember the exact number — faces she recognized. They were jurors who had convicted Cosby on three counts of sexual assault in April 2018 and had come to the courthouse again, in September of that same year, to hear him sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.
Tears flowed down Constand’s face, she writes in “The Moment: Standing Up to Bill Cosby. Speaking Up for Women.”
They hugged her. But it was what they said to her that really mattered: “We always believed you.”
She’d cooperated with prosecutors during two grueling trials — the first ending with a hung jury — because “it was the right thing to do,” she writes. But what she “wanted more than anything was to be believed,” even as her years-long study of yoga and meditation had inspired her to forgive Cosby “to escape the burden of bitterness and anger, to escape the cycle of suffering unleashed by a thirst for retribution.”
That desire to be believed is a central concept underlying Constand’s book, a memoir and detailed retelling of the Cosby trials, but also an attempt to urge changes in laws, such as statutes of limitation, that make it harder for accusers to seek justice. The sad truth is that, even amid the #MeToo movement, in which women from all over America spoke about allegations of sexual assault, the country still has a long way to go. Experts say that assault victims frequently do not report the horrors visited upon them because they fear that they won’t be believed or that their chances of achieving some form of justice are slim. If they do come forward, they often risk having their characters assassinated, their motives questioned, their finances ruined.
The first version of Constand’s book was completed while Cosby was imprisoned, his lack of remorse making it possible he would remain jailed beyond the minimum sentence, despite his advancing age — he was 83. In June, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court freed him, ruling Cosby could reasonably have expected to be granted immunity after a previous district attorney had declined to prosecute him. With that in mind, the court opined, Cosby had agreed to answer questions in an extraordinary deposition related to a lawsuit that Constand settled for more than $3 million in 2006. Cosby claims the Supreme Court vindicated him; Constand’s supporters insist he has gotten off on a technicality.
The deposition, in which Cosby spoke about acquiring quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex, became the key piece of evidence in the 2018 trial. Jurors not only heard about quaaludes, a powerful sedative, but also about pills Cosby gave Constand the night of the alleged assault, telling her they were her “friends.” Cosby claimed they were the allergy medicine Benadryl; prosecutors suggested they were something more debilitating.
Prior to the first trial, Constand reveals in her memoir, she had an affair with a woman who was involved in a relationship. What might have been gratuitous instead turns into a lesson about sexual assault accusers writ large.
Cosby “had not taken away my ability to be sexually alive with another person,” Constand, now a massage therapist, writes. “I know how lucky I am in this. Many sexual assault survivors, including a number of Cosby’s victims, can’t say the same.” (At least 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault or harassment; he has repeatedly said he never sexually assaulted anyone.)
Cosby’s attorneys achieved a mistrial in the first trial by painting Constand as a jilted lover. Constand knew her case was in trouble. One juror “glared” at her, she writes, “the hard line of his mouth twisting in what looked like disgust.”
Constand found one Cosby attorney, Angela Agrusa, whose fumbling performance drew the judge’s rebuke, “unnecessarily harsh” but allowed that the relatable performance of Brian McMonagle, Cosby’s lead attorney, had been “warmly persuasive.”
[Mistrial declared in trial of Bill Cosby]In the next trial, Cosby switched strategy, hiring white-maned Hollywood attorney Thomas Mesereau, who cut a menacing figure, as lead attorney, and Kathleen Bliss, a former federal prosecutor whose savage rants about other accusers who testified for the prosecution shocked many in the audience. Mesereau made the bizarre decision to cast Constand as a cunning, greedy schemer. The Constand I watched while covering both trials came across as naive and often befuddled — hardly a master extortionist.
In the final version of her book, Constand adds a few thoughts following Cosby’s release from prison, saying “happiness is all that matters,” and vowing “to support sexual assault victims and to help other voices be heard.” Because of the prominence she gained during the Cosby trials, it’s conceivable that people will listen.
In the end that might be a victory greater than anything possible in a courtroom.
Manuel Roig-Franzia, a Washington Post staff writer, covered both of Bill Cosby’s criminal trials in the Andrea Constand case.
By Andrea Constand
Viking. 256 pp. $24.95
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