NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby was a predator or a lover. A kindly mentor or a callous manipulator.
After all the emotional testimony, the bellowing attorneys and the reams of evidence, it was left to the 12 jurors who disappeared behind a courtroom door in this Philadelphia suburb late Monday to sort out those competing images of the 79-year-old comedian.
The sequestered jury — seven men and five women from the Pittsburgh area — betrayed little about their leanings during six days of testimony that drew to an explosive finish Monday afternoon with four hours of fiery closing arguments from both sides. Many of the jurors were expressionless during testimony, but a few were smiling and chuckling when they entered the courtroom on Monday afternoon to receive final instructions from Steven T. O’Neill, the presiding Montgomery County judge.
The jury, which deliberated for four hours and will reconvene Tuesday morning, will decide whether Cosby is guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each of which carries a possible 10-year sentence.
Prosecutor Kevin Steele and defense attorney Brian McMonagle each sent the jurors off to deliberations with rhetorical dilemmas to resolve. Steele, a career prosecutor whose face turned the shade of a sun-ripened tomato during his close, tried to get jurors to focus on Cosby’s admission that he gave pills to his alleged victim, Andrea Constand, that the comedian has testified he called “three friends to help you relax.”
“Who says something like that?” Steele said, his voice full of spite, as he pleaded with the jury to convict Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand in 2004 when she was 30.
McMonagle, pounding the defense table, suggested to jurors that Cosby was the victim of a drumbeat of accusations by women who wanted to appear on television shows.
“You know why we’re here,” McMonagle said scornfully, nodding toward two Cosby accusers in the audience — Victoria Valentino and Linda Kirkpatrick — who did not testify in the case. “Let’s be real.”
McMonagle cast blame on the media for giving Cosby’s accusers — who now number 60 — a forum. Later, Valentino said in an interview that she was proud to be singled out because she’d helped expose a man she called “the biggest serial rapist in American history.”
A few steps behind Cosby, who sat at the defense table reclining in his chair, the comic legend’s wife, Camille, watched McMonagle’s closing argument. When McMonagle urged jurors to view the alleged sexual encounter between her husband and Constand as part of a year-long romance, Camille Cosby sat with her head held high, a slight smile on her face.
Camille Cosby — the entertainer’s wife of more than 50 years — drew stares because she was in the courthouse after a week of conspicuous absence. She slipped into the courtroom while the judge was addressing the audience and the attorneys. By allowing Cosby’s wife to enter the courtroom in the middle of proceedings while the judge was speaking, officials at the Montgomery Courthouse extended her an extraordinary and unprecedented courtesy.
From her prime seat, Cosby’s wife heard her husband’s lawyer blame his legal woes on the supposed lies, greed and vanity of his accusers.
The criminal case, however, focuses on the disputed contact between Cosby and just one woman: Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball staffer who says Cosby took advantage of his role as her mentor and slipped her pills that left her “frozen” and unable to stop him from touching her breasts and genitals.
The Cosby defense presentation was startlingly fast: one witness, a police detective, who was on the stand for a total of six minutes. McMonagle called the detective merely to attest to the existence of a police report about Constand’s interviews with law enforcement investigators and to briefly discuss questions the policeman asked the alleged victim about several hours she spent with Cosby at a Connecticut casino.
The brevity of the defense case contrasted with the presentation by prosecutors, who called 12 witnesses over five days of often emotional testimony. At the end of last week, a spokesman for Cosby hinted that the entertainer might testify. Legal experts and courtroom observers generally dismissed that suggestion as a bluff, perhaps designed to throw prosecutors — who ended with a lot of momentum — off balance.
Once both sides returned to the courtroom, Cosby confirmed to O’Neill that he would not take the stand. O’Neill assured Cosby that he would instruct the jury that defendants are not required to testify. (The jury was selected from the Pittsburgh area because of defense concerns about pretrial publicity in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the case became an issue in Steele’s 2015 election campaign.)
The judge at one point addressed Cosby to ask him a few standard questions. Cosby raised his hand when the judge said he couldn’t see the entertainer.
When asked if he understood what was happening, Cosby answered in a booming voice: “Yes!”
During his closing argument, McMonagle flipped between stage-whispered intimacy and earsplitting verbal explosions — as he ran through a long list of possible culprits he says are responsible for landing his client at the center of one of the most high-profile criminal cases in recent American history.
“This ain’t right!” bellowed McMonagle.
Constand filed a civil lawsuit that was settled in 2006 after Montgomery County prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Cosby. McMonagle, looking to raise doubts about her motives, reminded jurors that she contacted a lawyer who specializes in sexual assault lawsuits around the time she reported the alleged assault to police. The implication is that she was after money from Cosby, one of America’s wealthier stars.
Rather than focus on the sexual assault allegations, McMonagle tried to present jurors with a broader sense of Cosby as a flawed man, an “unfaithful” husband, but also a brilliant comedian, “who not only taught us how to smile but how to love each other no matter what we look like.”
McMonagle, a prominent Philadelphia defense attorney, accused Constand of telling “a stone-cold lie.” Instead, he was intent on persuading the jury that Constand was a “lover” of the comedian — not a victim.
“It’s a relationship,” he said, in a voice that sounded street-wise and tough.
Once McMonagle finished, prosecutor Steele began his impassioned closing argument. Constand took a seat in the front row on the opposite side of the courtroom. Constand, wearing a casual lightweight blue blazer, was joined by her mother, Gianna Constand, who was a key prosecution witness.
As they watched, Steele repeatedly asserted that, in a sense, Cosby had already confessed. He showed jurors copies of deposition transcripts and police interviews in which Cosby admitted to giving Constand a dose of Benadryl, an over-the-counter allergy medication he uses as a sleep aid, and discussing his sexual preferences. Steele also reminded jurors that Cosby had admitted to giving quaaludes, a powerful now-illegal sedative, to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
“All the fancy lawyering you have can’t get you around your own words,” Steele said.
Steele also castigated defense attorneys for raising doubts about Constand’s credibility because she waited a year to report the alleged assault and maintained contact with the comedian after the alleged assault. A prosecution expert testified that such assertions amounted to “rape myths.”
“We all know better now,” said Steele, who contemptuously accused the defense of the “exploitation of myths.”
Instead of a lover, Steele asserted that Cosby is a criminal. He cited Cosby’s admission that he went to his own bedroom on the night of the alleged assault at his suburban Philadelphia estate, leaving Constand alone on a couch.
“You do what you do to her, and then you leave?” Steele said, his voice oozing disdain. “You leave her there? No blanket? No nothing? Clothes up around her? C’mon Come on!”