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Bill Cosby sexual assault trial ends in mistrial

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(NORRISTOWN, Penn.) — After six days of deliberations, a Norristown, PA, jury Saturday failed to reach a verdict in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, prompting Judge Steven O’Neill to declare a mistrial.

Montgomery County, PA District Attorney Kevin Steele has already declared Cosby will be re-tried.

Early Thursday the jury in the Norristown, Pennsylvania courtroom informed the court that they were unable to reach a unanimous agreement on any of the three charges the comedian faces.  But the judge sent the jury back to continue deliberating.

Each jury deadlock announcement was met with a defense motion for a mistrial. The judge denied Thursday morning’s motion.

Wednesday, the jury asked to hear portions of accuser Andrea Constand’s testimony from last week and read-backs of police testimony about Cosby’s 2005 interview with police at his attorney’s New York law office.

Constand testified for more than seven hours over two days last week, resulting in more than 300 pages of trial transcript. The jury requested that a portion of Constand’s comments about the night of the alleged attack be read back to them.

Cosby, 79, thanked his supporters as he departed the courtroom Friday night.

“I just want to wish all of the fathers a Happy Father’s Day,” said Cosby, who also tweeted videos of his remarks. “And I want to thank the jury for their long days. Their honest work, individually. I also want to thank the supporters who have been here. And, please, to the supporters, stay calm. Do not argue with people. Just keep up the great support. Thank you.”

 

Happy #FathersDay wishes and thank you to all of my supporters. pic.twitter.com/qUkL500Ask

— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 17, 2017

 

Cosby also tweeted a video of supporters outside the courthouse chanting, “Let Bill go.”

 

To my supporters and fans in Norristown, Thank you. pic.twitter.com/qgAUlM9k8r

— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 17, 2017

 

In a written statement following the judge’s decision, Cosby’s wife of 53 years, 73-year-old Camille Cosby, thanked the jury and her husband’s legal team, but had harsh words for others. 

She called District Attorney Kevin Steele “Heinously and exploitively [sic] ambitious,” Judge Steven O’Neill “Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney,” Constand’s legal counsel “totally unethical,” and described “many, but not all general media” as “Blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truths for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.”

Mrs. Cosby went on, in part: “I am grateful to any of the jurors who tenaciously fought to review the evidence; which is the rightful way to make a sound decision….ultimately, that is a manifestation of justice, based on facts, not lies. As a very special friend once stated, “truth can be subdued, but not destroyed.”

Speaking to the media following the mistrial, DA Steele called Cosby accuser Andrea Constand “courageous, positive and prepared to continue with a retrial,” which he said could happen soon.

“The judge has made some indications in court that he is looking to put this on track within 120 days,” Steele said. “Legally we have 365 days to try the case.”

Concerning Cosby, Steele said, “Nobody is above the law.”

Cosby was accused of drugging and sexually violating Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.  Constand, who was then an employee of Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, claims the comic gave her drugs that incapacitated her to the degree that she could not stop him from assaulting her. 

After a brief criminal investigation that was ended due to lack of evidence, Constand sued Cosby in 2005; the case was settled the following year for an undisclosed sum.  Cosby testified under oath in the suit, but that testimony was sealed as part of a mutual nondisclosure agreement until July 2015, when Constand petitioned the court to unseal the testimony.  She claimed Cosby’s then-recent responses to similar drugging and/or assault allegations by other women broke the nondisclosure agreement.  A federal court unsealed the testimony.

Cosby’s 2005 testimony included his admission that he had drugged and had sexual contact with Constand, but he claimed the sex was consensual and the drug he gave her was Benadryl.  Cosby also admitted that in the past, he’d obtained Quaaludes, a sedative, for the purpose of giving them to women in order to have sex with them.

Citing the unsealed deposition’s contents as new evidence, the Montgomery County, PA, district attorney’s office re-opened its criminal investigation into Constand’s accusations in 2015, just months before the statue of limitations for criminal charges was due to expire in January, 2016. Cosby was charged in December, 2015, with a judge deciding in May, 2016 that there was sufficient cause to proceed to trial. 

Testimony began June 5, 2017 and ended June 12, the same day the jury got the case.  Constand testified and was grilled by Cosby’s defense over alleged inconsistencies in her story over the years.  Also testifying was Kelly Johnson, who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 1996, which the prosecution hoped would show a pattern of behavior by Cosby.  Cosby did not testify during the trial, though the prosecution made his 2005 deposition testimony central to their case.

Cosby was charged with three felony counts related to the Constand case, each of which carries a sentence of from five to ten years in prison.  However, Pennsylvania law allows the judge to order the sentences to be served concurrently, meaning Cosby could serve from five to ten years in prison.

Sixty women, including Constand, have accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them, or attempting to do so.  Cosby has denied all of the charges, and has only been criminally charged in the Constand case.

Regardless of the trial outcome, the accusations and trial marked a spectacular fall from grace for the 79-year-old comic, entertainer and philanthropist, who was beloved by millions for his role as the wise patriarch of the Huxtable family on the classic 1980-1990s sitcom The Cosby Show, which earned him the fond title of “TV’s Favorite Dad.” 

Cosby also starred as the erudite, accomplished Alexander Scott in the 1960s action-comedy TV series I Spy, making him the first black actor to play a lead role on an American TV drama.  Both roles helped dismantle stereotypes and break down barriers for African-Americans in entertainment.

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