Comedian Bill Cosby's defence wraps case in minutes at sex assault trial

The defence rests its case in Bill Cosby’s high profile sexual assault trial Monday. The entertainer accompanied by his wife Camille as he entered a Pennsylvania courthouse, but not taking the stand.
Bill Cosby arrives with his wife Camille at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania on June 12, 2017.
Bill Cosby arrives with his wife Camille at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania on June 12, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (AFP) - Comedian Bill Cosby's lawyers called just one witness and wrapped their defence of the disgraced US comedian in minutes on Monday (June 12) as the former megastar declined to take the stand at his Pennsylvania sexual assault trial.

In one of America's biggest celebrity trials in years, the 79-year-old pioneering black comedian faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a US$25,000 ($34,600) fine.

Around 60 women have publicly accused the Emmy-winning comedian of being a serial sexual predator in remarkably similar accusations that span four decades, ending his career and shredding his reputation.

But his fate rests on the allegations of just one, 44-year-old Andrea Constand, who alleges that he drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.

 

Cosby, one of the towering figures of US popular culture in the second half of the 20th century, was once adored by millions as "America's Dad" for his seminal role as a lovable father and obstetrician on hit TV series The Cosby Show. The prosecution spent five days last week building their case before the 12-person jury at Montgomery County Court in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia.

On Monday, the actor's high-powered defence team called just one witness to the stand - Richard Schaeffer, a detective who helped take down Constand's original statement - and rested their case in just a handful of minutes.

The megastar turned pariah, who has been abandoned by legions of celebrity friends, was on Monday accompanied into court for the first time by his wife of 53 years, Camille, before confirming that he would not testify.

"You have decided not to testify in this case, correct?" Judge Steven O'Neill asked the television star, who says he is now legally blind.

"Yes," replied the defendant.

"Is it your decision not to testify?" asked the judge.

"Yes," replied the defendant.

 

Constand - who was an employee of Temple University at the time of the alleged assault - arrived at court with her mother to sit in the public gallery and hear the concluding arguments from both sides.

Thirty years old at the time, she got to know Cosby while serving as director of women's basketball at Temple University, where the actor sat on the board of trustees.

Constand says she went to his home to seek career advice after coming to regard the pioneering black comedian, movie actor and television star as a mentor.

Cosby said in an original deposition that he gave Constand the antihistamine Benadryl only to relieve stress, insisting that their sexual relations were consensual and accusing her of lying.

Embarking on a 90-minute closing statement, defence lawyer Brian McMonagle claimed Constand had sought to conceal an emotional relationship with Cosby from the police and accused her of concocting the allegations to take advantage of him.

"She's on the phone with lawyers before she told her mom anything," he said, his voice rising regularly in agitation.

"Don't let her declare victim," he implored the jury.

McMonagle highlighted inconsistencies from Constand, who initially gave different dates for the alleged assault and varied details about events before and after.

He said she had asked passages to be removed from a report after being interviewed by police in early 2005, when she first reported the encounter a year later.

"Why are you trying to call it something it's not?" McMonagle said. "Just say it."

Constand testified at length last week, with her evidence considered crucial in a case that experts say will boil down to her word against his.

McMonagle defended the good faith of his client, saying Cosby had agreed to speak at length to investigators in 2005 when he could have kept silent.

McMonagle also turned on the press.

"We're here because of them," he said, pointing to the benches of reporters covering the trial. He denounced the "beat of the drum" accusations against Cosby in the media, which have snowballed since late 2014.