Montgomery County prosecutors lashed into Bill Cosby in their final pitch to jurors Tuesday, painting him as a serial sexual predator who hid for decades behind his reputation as “America’s Dad” to lure unsuspecting young women into situations where they were powerless to resist his advances.
“He is nothing like the image he plays on TV,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said in an impassioned address to the panel of seven men and five women hearing the case. “He utilized that image and cloaked it around himself, so he could gain the trust of young, unsuspecting women to sexually assault them and strip their ability to say no.”
Feden and her cocounsel, M. Stewart Ryan, pushed back hard against defense attempts earlier in the day to discredit Andrea Constand, the case’s central accuser, as a “con artist” and a grifter.
They responded contemptuously to what they described as “utterly shameful” and “filthy” efforts by Cosby’s lawyers to tear down the five other women who testified against the 80-year-old entertainer at trial.
“She’s the exact reason that women and victims of sexual assault don’t report this crime,” Feden said, pointing at defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss, who had in her own closing argument hours earlier dismissed each of the women one-by-one as “failed starlets,” gold diggers, or sexually promiscuous liars. “How dare she call these women moral-less?”
As for Cosby, Feden stood feet from the comedy icon, pointing directly at the uncomfortable smile playing across his face.
“There’s nothing funny about that, Mr. Cosby,” she said. “And there’s nothing funny about five different women plus Ms. Constand being incapacitated, stripped of their autonomy, and being unable to say, ‘I don’t want to engage in sexual contact.’ There’s nothing funny about ‘No.’ ”
That charged animosity lingered throughout the 12th day of Cosby’s retrial as jurors prepared to begin their deliberations Wednesday.
At one point, tensions became so heated between Bliss and District Attorney Kevin R. Steele while jurors were out of the courtroom that Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill had to break up their shouting match himself with a sign he held up from the bench that read “QUIET PLEASE!”
Earlier in the day, Bliss and her cocounsel Tom Mesereau had likened their client’s legal woes to a “lynching” and dismissed outright the #MeToo movement whose shadow has loomed large over the proceedings.
“Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Gut feelings are not rational decisions. Mob rule is not due process,” Bliss said. “When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing.”
The defense urged jurors to reject Constand’s account of being drugged and assaulted in 2004 at Cosby’s Cheltenham home, insisting she made it all up for the $3.4 million settlement she would receive in a suit she later filed against him. They pointed to numerous inconsistencies in reports she gave to police over the last 13 years, calling her a “pathological liar.”
>>UPDATES: Day-by-day at Bill Cosby’s retrial
“I call it one of the biggest highway robberies of all times,” Mesereau said. “Bill Cosby got conned, big time.”
But it was Bliss’ attacks on the trial’s other accusers – five women who testified earlier in the trial that Cosby approached them as a mentor in the ’80s only to sexually assault them – that drew the brunt of prosecutors’ ire Tuesday.
Bliss stood before the jury and maintained there was a difference between “victim shaming” and the type of scrutiny the defense team has applied to those accusers throughout the trial.
Then, one-by-one she picked apart their characters, called them names, and insisted each had piled on with false accusations in a conspiracy to tear down an American icon.
Of Heidi Thomas, a former aspiring actress who testified Cosby drugged and attacked her in Reno, Nev. in 1984, Bliss said: “She wanted to be a star. She’s living the dream now.”
She scoffed at Janice Baker-Kinney, a former casino bartender who told jurors earlier that she made a stupid mistake taking party drugs from Cosby, a married man, before she was assaulted.
“Where is her morality? Where are her values? Where is a little personal responsibility?” Bliss asked.
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And when it came to Janice Dickinson – the former supermodel and reality TV show staple who accused Cosby of raping her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982 — Bliss did not hold back.
“It sounds as if she slept with almost every single man on the planet,” the lawyer said. “Is Ms. Dickinson really the moral beacon the women’s movement wants?”
Ryan, the prosecutor, recoiled at Bliss’ remarks in his own speech.
“I can only hope … that what we are seeing are the last vestiges of a tactic designed not to get to the truth but to damage character and reputation.”
Throughout the defense argument Tuesday, Cosby’s wife, Camille, sat in the gallery’s front row, her eyes shielded behind a pair of chunky sunglasses. She was escorted into the courtroom on the arm of Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, earlier in the day, making her first appearance since the start of the trial, and was conspicuously led to the front, where she gave her husband two quick kisses on the cheek, before taking her seat. She left the courthouse immediately after the defense closing argument ended.
Meanwhile, Constand was not in the courtroom during Bliss’ and Mesereau’s speeches but turned up in time for the prosecutors to finish their case. She chatted cordially with lawyers and staff of the District Attorney’s Office.
Once the lawyers’ speeches had concluded, O’Neill said he intended to instruct jurors on the law Wednesday morning and let them begin their discussions of the case.
“I want you refreshed,” the judge told the panel before sending them back to the nearby hotel where they have been sequestered since the start of the trial.
Still, it could take days for the jurors to reach a verdict – if they are able to do so at all.
During Cosby’s first trial in June, jurors deliberated for 52 hours over a week and still ultimately were unable to reach a unanimous decision, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial.
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault – each of which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
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