Andrea Constand tells Bill Cosby jury: 'I could not fight him off'

Andrea Constand breaks for lunch at the Bill Cosby sexual assault retrial case, April 13, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (NYTIMES) - Bill Cosby was supposed to be her mentor, Andrea Constand told a jury here on Friday (April 13).

But instead he became her attacker, she said, so unrelenting in his sexual pursuit - even after she had rejected his advances - that he drugged and molested her during a visit to his home in January 2004.

"I was kind of jolted awake and felt Mr Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched," Constand said on the fifth day of Cosby's sexual assault retrial. "I was limp, and I could not fight him off."

Constand was more composed and less emotional in giving her account this time than she had been last summer, when she first testified about what she said had happened at Cosby's house near Philadelphia.

That case ended in a mistrial when the jury became deadlocked.

This time, Cosby's defence team has taken a more aggressive stance towards Constand, describing her as a "con artist" who engaged in a consensual encounter and then concocted a story of assault so as to score a big payday.

Prosecutors seemed cognizant of those efforts to depict Constand in an unflattering light when they asked her why she had agreed to cooperate when they brought charges, even after securing a large financial settlement from Cosby in a 2005 lawsuit.

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"For justice," she replied.

In more than two hours on the stand, led by Kristen Gibbons Feden, a special prosecutor, Constand described how an older man she respected, and who was a major source of career guidance, took advantage of her trust.

She recalled meeting Cosby, a famous alumnus of Temple University, where she worked, during a basketball game in 2002. She was working as an administrator for the women's team, and she said he subsequently called her office and invited her to dinners at his houses in New York and Connecticut.

On two earlier occasions, she said, she had rebuffed his advances.

Only once did she pause in her testimony, and that was just before she began to provide a graphic, detailed account of what she said happened at the Cosby home near Philadelphia in January 2004. Cosby gave her three blue pills, she said.

She testified that he said: "Put 'em down. They will help you relax.'"

"I began to see double vision," she continued.

"I was very scared," she said. "I didn't know what was happening, why I was feeling that way."

Her court appearance followed several days of testimony from five other women who said they believe they, too, had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby.

As part of Cosby's defence, his lawyers have said they will bring forward an academic adviser at Temple, who said she had roomed with Constand during university basketball trips and that Constand had once told her before the incident with Cosby that she could fabricate a claim of sexual assault about a celebrity to get money.

The adviser, Marguerite Jackson, was barred from testifying at the first trial after Constand told the court she did not know her. But Cosby's lawyers are expected to challenge that testimony when they cross-examine Constand.

Prosecutors seemed interested in taking some of the sting out of that effort on Friday morning when they asked Constand about the adviser.

"I recognise the name," she said this time. But asked if she had ever roomed with her, she said, "No."

In recent days, the defence has worked to find holes in the other women's accounts, suggesting that their accounts were not credible and were probably motivated by money or media attention.

Cosby, 80, is not charged with assaulting the other five women who have testified, but prosecutors hoped to show a pattern of predatory behaviour by Cosby that eventually targeted Constand, 45. At the first trial, prosecutors were allowed to introduce only one other accuser to bolster Constand's account.

Cosby has denied any inappropriate behavior and said the sex with Constand was consensual.

After the encounter, Constand said, she went to his house several weeks later to confront him. Cosby discussed the night a bit, suggesting he thought she had had an orgasm, but then evaded her questions, Constand testified.

As Constand spoke, Cosby sometimes sat back in his chair at the defense table, listening carefully. At times, he stared at the ceiling as she described the night of their encounter.

Constand said she feared retaliation from Cosby if she were to speak out, but she told her mother nearly a year later. Together, they spoke to Cosby, who, she said, admitted to giving her pills and penetrating her with his fingers, and using her hand to masturbate him.

"After a very short time on the telephone with my mom there, he eventually apologised for doing what he did, but he would not tell us what he gave me," she said. "He said I don't know. I have to go check the prescription bottle."

Cosby has said the pills he gave Constand were Benadryl.

Constand's lawsuit against Cosby ended in 2006 with a US$3.38 million settlement. She sued after prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, initially declined to bring charges against Cosby.

In the years after the settlement, she moved to North Carolina and started her own business before moving back to Toronto, where she lives now and works as a massage therapist.

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