Cosby lawyers seek to paint accuser as opportunist

Bill Cosby arrives at a Pennsylvania courthouse on Wednesday where his attorneys have turned their attention to early discrepancies in statements by the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2004.
 Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial.
Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial.PHOTO: REUTERS

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (REUTERS) - Bill Cosby's lawyers sought on Wednesday (June 7) at his criminal trial to portray the woman accusing him of a 2004 sexual assault as an opportunist who pursued the comedian's affections before going after his money.

Phone records showed Andrea Constand called Cosby 53 times between Jan 20, 2004, days after she said the assault occurred, and March 31, 2004, when she left Temple University, including twice on Valentine's Day.

They also indicated that she called lawyers specialising in civil litigation before reporting the alleged assault to police.

Constand told jurors she had only spoken with Cosby a handful of times, all related to her administrative job with the women's basketball programme at Temple.

Cosby, a university trustee, followed the athletics department closely, she said.

The defence's cross examination of the trial's key witness came a day after Constand testified that the entertainer drugged and abused her at his Philadelphia-area home, after months of acting as a mentor.

Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from dozens of women, though Constand's accusation is the only one to lead to criminal charges. The 79-year-old entertainer, once known as "America's dad" for his role in the 1980s television series The Cosby Show, has denied all wrongdoing.

In more than four hours of cross examination over two days, defence attorney Angela Agrusa did not ask Constand any details about the alleged assault.

Instead, she strove to undermine Constand's credibility by focusing on discrepancies in her statements to police in 2005, when she first reported the incident. Those statements included Constand's claim that she had never been alone with Cosby before.

Agrusa attempted to portray as romantic earlier encounters between the two, including a private dinner on Cosby's couch in front of a fire.

"The room was dark, and there was a nice mood in the room, correct?" she said.

"I don't know what that means," answered Constand.

She previously testified that Cosby made sexual advances that night, which she said she rebuffed.

Agrusa went through phone records that showed Constand's calls to Cosby after the alleged incident.

"You knew Cosby was a married man, right?" she asked.

"Yes," Constand replied.

Agrusa noted that Constand and Cosby exchanged numerous gifts, and that the comedian gave her cashmere sweaters, perfume and a US$225 hair dryer.

Constand sued Cosby in 2005 after prosecutors initially decided not to charge him. The lawsuit was settled in 2006 for an undisclosed sum.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden argued that Constand had been consistent when describing what actually happened at Cosby's house, even if some details of her account changed over time, such as the date on which it occurred.

Feden said that Constand stopped calling Cosby after leaving her job at Temple.