NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Jurors in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial finally got to hear the comedian’s voice on Wednesday.
The airing of a taped phone conversation between Cosby and his main accuser’s anguished mother capped a strange and dramatic third day of testimony that featured a weeping witness, pratfalls in the courtroom hallway and, curiously, a chatty parrot.
Cosby’s voice didn’t come booming out of the courtroom speakers until late in the afternoon when some of the jurors had begun to yawn and stretch. They snapped to attention when the comic legend’s familiar voice poured into the room.
On the three-minute call, Cosby could be heard trying to smooth things over with Gianna Constand, the mother of Andrea Constand, who has accused the comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
He offers to pay for Andrea Constand to attend college, but only if she gets good grades.
“As long as she maintains a 3-point average, she’ll be fine,” Cosby says on the tape.
He also suggests that Gianna Constand and her daughter travel to meet with him to discuss his proposal. The call is interrupted by a beeping sound that seems to make Cosby suspicious.
“I have a parrot,” the mother can be heard saying. (She later brought a ripple of laughter to the courtroom when she said she really does have a parrot, and his name is Ozzie.)
But Gianna Constand didn’t get the big thing she wanted out of the call, which was the second she’d had with Cosby, but the first she’d recorded. She urged Cosby, who had previously told her he gave pills to her daughter, to send him the name of the medication he’d given her.
“No, no, no,” Cosby could be heard saying. “We can talk about what you asked for later.”
The playing of the tape coincided with the appearance on the witness stand of Gianna Constand, who proved to be a significant prosecution ally and a formidable adversary for Cosby’s defense team. The mother held the courtroom audience rapt as she recounted 2½ hours of unrecorded phone calls with Cosby in January 2005, shortly after she’d learned of her daughter’s allegations about an incident at the comedian’s suburban Philadelphia home the year before.
On those calls, Gianna Constand said, Cosby “admitted that he was a sick man.” She said he told her in graphic detail about penetrating her daughter’s vagina with his fingers, but assured her that there was no “penile penetration.”
“He said, ‘Oh, I feel bad. I sound like a perverted person,’ ” Gianna Constand said, noting that Cosby kept calling her “Mom.”
The mother also began weeping on the witness stand, holding her hand over her eyes and then whispering, “I’ve just got to get my composure.” She was still sobbing when Cosby’s attorney Angela Agrusa began cross-examination. But the witness gathered herself, glaring and speaking contemptuously to the woman representing the man she believes assaulted her daughter.
“You’re wrong,” she said firmly when Agrusa suggested that Cosby never confessed to her. “He was sorry for what he did.”
The mother’s testimony amounted to a second act for prosecutors attempting to repair the damage done by the defense in a rough morning of cross-examination for Andrea Constand. The defense questioning focused on the jumbled set of details she related to police in interviews. Her inconsistencies have come back to haunt her as she tries to convince a jury that she is a sex-crime victim rather than a woman who willingly had romantic relations with Cosby, whom she had thought of as a mentor.
Under questioning by Agrusa, Constand admitted that the date of the alleged sexual assault included in her first police report was off by several weeks.
The report states that Constand told officers Cosby sexually assaulted her after a March 16, 2004, restaurant dinner with a group of high school students. The two had become friends through her work at Temple University, where she was an administrator for the women’s basketball team and he sat on the board of trustees.
But in later police interviews, she said the alleged assault took place in January 2004 — not after a dinner out, but during a one-on-one visit to Cosby’s home to discuss her career plans.
Another potential problem for Constand is the fact that there had been some sexual overtures by Cosby before the night of the alleged assault. The defense may be able to use that admission to suggest that Constand was aware Cosby was interested in her romantically and therefore went to his home knowing that she might have a sexual encounter. They could also raise questions about why she would continue to spend time alone with the comedian.
Constand admitted that she called Cosby twice on Valentine’s Day, a month after the alleged incident.
Prosecutors sought to rehabilitate Constand’s credibility by showing jurors that she’d stopped calling Cosby after leaving her job at Temple University in March 2005. Constand said the numerous calls she’d had with Cosby before then were mostly related to Temple basketball.
Constand left the courtroom with a satisfied smile. Moments later, Cosby traipsed through the hallway with his defense team. When a policeman shouted at reporters to put away their cellphones, Cosby stumbled, thrusting his ever-present cane in the air in an exaggerated manner. “What’d you say?” he said.
Then he broke into a wide and familiar grin.