NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Andrea Constand had an explosive accusation: One of the world’s most famous men — the beloved comedian Bill Cosby — had drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Under questioning by Cosby’s attorney, Angela Agrusa, Constand had to admit that the date of the alleged sexual assault included in her first police report was off by several weeks.
The report, which is emerging as a key element of the defense case, states that Constand told officers Cosby sexually assaulted her at his Philadelphia-area home 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.
Agrusa displayed phone records that showed Constand was actually talking with friends much of the evening of March 16. Then the diminutive attorney peppered Constand with questions that were tough for her to answer.
“You changed your story,” Agrusa said, without drawing a response from Constand, 44, a former operations director for the Temple University women’s basketball team.
Moments later, Agrusa returned to the police report, saying: “You told a very different story.”
“Well,” Constand said in a calm and measured voice. “You just summed it up.”
Agrusa also sought to undermine Constand’s credibility by questioning her about her efforts to get records of her Temple University-issued cellphone calls from a university official. The implication seemed to be that Constand might have been trying to clean up some of the errors in her statements to police.
The inconsistencies in the police reports present a major challenge for prosecutors. Anticipating that strategy, prosecutor Kristen Feden warned jurors during her opening statement Monday that they should be wary of “distractions” thrown out by Cosby’s attorneys. Prosecutors will need to persuade jurors that Constand — who says she decided to file a criminal complaint because she was having nightmares about the incident — made innocent mistakes when calling police a year after the assault allegedly occurred.
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.
A key moment in that narrative is a night when Constand had a fireside dinner at Cosby’s home prepared by the entertainer’s private chef. Constand testified that Cosby “touched my thigh” that night. On her first day of testimony Tuesday, Constand said she pulled away when Cosby touched her.
“He made a pass at you?” Agrusa asked, her voice rising.
“Yes,” Constand said.
Agrusa succeeded in drawing some potentially damaging admissions from Constand. But the Los Angeles-based attorney also has struggled with some basic courtroom practices during two days of cross-examination of Constand.
At times, Judge Steven T. O’Neill appeared to be offering instructions to Agrusa on fundamental methods of cross-examining a witness.
“You show her the document,” O’Neill said in a voice reminiscent of a somewhat perturbed college professor. “Then you ask her the question.”
The cross-examination was further hindered by the clunky technology inside the courtroom, which has led to frequent delays. At one point, O’Neill interrupted Agrusa because he couldn’t see an exhibit she was discussing on his computer screen.
“Do you know how to turn this on?” O’Neill said to a clerk.