Constand denies defense claim she plotted to extort Cosby

Bill Cosby
Andrea Constand during a lunch break at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial on Friday.

Confronting Bill Cosby’s chief accuser Monday, defense lawyer Tom Mesereau teed up the one question he’d been preparing to ask Andrea Constand for months:

“Did you ever tell someone that you could falsely accuse someone else of sexual assault and make a lot of money?”

Prosecutors immediately objected. Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill called a court recess to consider whether Constand should be required to respond. And in the end, she did.

But by the time she answered with a firm “No,” it had been nearly drowned out by the weight of the accusation inherent in the question.

Such was the dynamic throughout much of Constand’s second day on the witness stand as Mesereau harangued, challenged, quizzed, and needled the only woman whose allegations against Cosby have managed to put the iconic comedian on trial.

Throughout, the lawyer’s questioning seemed designed less to elicit answers from Constand than to speak directly to jurors.

How well that tactic was able to expose cracks in her story, or to successfully paint Constand in front of the jury as a grifter out to make a quick buck by conning a wealthy man, will be key to Mesereau’s ability to win an acquittal in the case.

But Constand, during her nine hours on the witness stand over two days, largely held firm, sticking to a story she has told now through two trials and been repeating for more than a decade – that Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2004 without her consent.

“He touched my breasts,” the 45-year-old Canadian massage therapist said. “He placed his fingers inside my vagina. He also placed my hand on his penis.”

Jurors also heard Tuesday from Constand’s mother, Gianna, who testified that she recorded a 2005 phone call she made to confront Cosby about what he had done to her daughter.

Cosby’s lawyers used their cross-examination of her to keep up their attacks, suggesting her daughter was in debt, had issues with her job performance, and would have been fired from a job at Temple University had she not resigned shortly after her alleged assault.

“Are you trying to convince me?’ Gianna Constand interrupted at one point. “Well you’re wrong.”

Still, it was Mesereau’s attempts to bait Constand with his accusatory inquiries that consumed most of the court’s energy throughout the day — and elicited a few rare grins from his 80-year-old client, who largely has sat stone-faced throughout his trial.

“Do you agree that in various interviews on various subjects,” the defense lawyer asked Constand at one point, “that you’ve been inconsistent in your statements to police?”

Later, the lawyer inquired, “Did you think it was appropriate to be in a married man’s hotel room in Connecticut at that time of night?” – a reference to a trip Constand took to see Cosby at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut months before her alleged assault.

When she responded that it was Cosby who had invited her to his room, Mesereau quickly moved on, asking similar questions stressing Cosby’s marital status again and again.

He used the same technique while returning to a topic he first broached Friday: emails Constand had sent to colleagues while working as the women’s basketball manager to encourage them to pay her $65 to join an online multilevel marketing business. On the stand, Constand referred to it as “some internet networking thing” she got involved with at the request of a friend.

And although her answer did not change, Mesereau seemed to delight Monday in posing questions to Constand that referred to the business as a “pyramid scheme.” His repetition of the phrase grew so frequent at one point that O’Neill interrupted him mid-inquiry.

“This is cross-examination as to [her] credibility,” the judge said. “What is not relevant is this pyramid scheme.”

Camera icon ( Dominick Reuter / REUTERS )
Tom Mesereau, lawyer for actor and comedian Bill Cosby, arrives for the sixth day of Cosby’s sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on Monday, April 16, 2018.

As a tactic, Mesereau’s frequent repetition of accusations that would paint Constand in an unflattering light contrasted sharply with the approach taken by his predecessor, Angela Agrusa, during Cosby’s first trial in June.

Back then, Agrusa spent most of her cross-examination poring over Constand’s phone records to emphasize that she had called Cosby more than 100 times in the weeks after her alleged assault.

But Constand calmly brushed off those questions last year, insisting that the calls were all work-related communications between herself, representing Temple’s women’s basketball program, and Cosby, an interested and powerful university trustee.

Mesereau, too, referenced the phone calls Monday – including one on Feb. 14, 2004 — but more quickly drove home his point.

“What are you doing calling him on Valentine’s Day after you say you were assaulted?” he asked. Constand’s answer – that the team likely had a game that day – seemed to fade under the impression left by his pointed question.

But unlike Friday, when Constand seemed confused or rattled at times by Mesereau’s habit of abruptly skipping among seemingly unrelated topics, this time she appeared more assured and calm in her responses.

When talk turned to the $3.4 million Cosby paid her to end her 2005 lawsuit against him – and the settlement both signed in which Cosby admitted no wrongdoing – Constand fought back against Mesereau’s efforts to characterize the agreement as a money grab.

The lawsuit “was a very painstaking process for me and my family,” she said. “It tore my family apart. We just wanted it over.”

Mesereau’s early salvo — accusing Constand of discussing plans in the past to fabricate claims against Cosby so she could sue him in court — foreshadows what is expected to be a crucial part of the defense case that could begin later this week.

Cosby’s lawyers intend to call one of Constand’s former Temple colleagues, Marguerite Jackson, to testify. Jackson has said that Constand once told her, while the two were sharing a hotel room on a women’s basketball team trip, that she could make up a claim against a “high-profile person” and get money to pay for her education or a business.

When asked Monday about Jackson, Constand replied that she “knew a Margo.” But she emphatically denied ever sharing a hotel room with the woman or saying anything like what Jackson has alleged.

During their two-hour back-and-forth Monday, Mesereau never directly asked Constand about her alleged assault. Instead, his questions about the purported attack remained focused on inconsistencies in the various statements she gave police about when it had occurred.

When the opportunity arose for Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden to question Constand again, she attempted to brush away any damage Mesereau had done on that point – and took her own opportunity to speak to the jury through her questions.

“Have you consistently maintained what the defendant did to you after he drugged you that night?” the prosecutor asked. “Was there ever a time that you indicated that the crime the defendant committed against you was consensual?”

Constand responded: “There was not.”