Bill Cosby’s lawyers shifted focus at his retrial Friday, hoping to convince jurors that it was impossible for his 2004 sexual encounter with accuser Andrea Constand to have occurred when she says it did and to prove that it falls outside the state’s statute of limitations for sex crimes.
Defense attorney Becky S. James produced logs of Cosby’s private jet flights and itineraries for his heavy schedule of TV appearances, tour dates, and interviews in January 2004 – the month Constand says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his Cheltenham residence.
Cosby’s personal assistant, Debbie Meister, testified that the now-80-year-old entertainer spent much of that month criss-crossing the country on his Gulfstream IV – named “Camille” after his wife.
None of the records she walked jurors through Friday shows him flying into Philadelphia between December 2003 and February 2004.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele was quick to note, however, that Cosby’s schedules were not ironclad itineraries and might have changed at a moment’s notice.
“You have no personal knowledge of whether the defendant was on that plane,” he challenged Meister while discussing one of the flights she referenced.
James did little more on Friday — the trial’s 10th day — than to introduce the travel records and appearance schedule as exhibits. But the 14-year-old appointment schedule is likely to play a significant role in Cosby’s defense as the case rapidly draws to a close.
In court papers, James has laid out an elaborate, document-heavy argument that Constand’s alleged assault fell outside the time period in which prosecutors could legally charge Cosby with a crime.
Although Constand has repeatedly maintained in police statements, depositions, and testimony over the last 13 years that Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his home during the first two weeks of January 2004, his defense team says Cosby wasn’t even in Montgomery County at the time.
Instead, the defense documents show that the entertainer kept up a brisk pace during that period, jetting back and forth between New York, Florida, California, and his home in Massachusetts. He even taped an episode of Sesame Street in New York.
Constand also traveled frequently during that period in her job as an operations manager for Temple University’s women’s basketball team.
What’s more, the defense has argued, Constand placed several calls to Cosby’s New York residence in that two-week window, suggesting that she knew he was staying there.
Cosby, in earlier testimony, admitted he had a sexual liaison with Constand in Cheltenham in 2004 – one that he says was consensual. But his lawyers argue that if it occurred before 2004, the comedian’s alleged crimes would fall outside the statute of limitations.
Prosecutors were running up against Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes when they filed their case against Cosby in late December 2015.
If jurors find that theory persuasive, they could decide to acquit Cosby even if they believe he assaulted Constand.
That defense argument is just one of the themes likely to be competing as James and co-counsel Tom Mesereau and Kathleen Bliss prepare their closing pitch to jurors, expected at some time next week.
Earlier in the trial, they also sought to paint Constand as a gold-digging opportunist who fabricated her assault claims in an attempt to extort the $3.4 million settlement she received from Cosby in 2006.
Jurors heard testimony Friday from Robert Russell, who said he knew Constand in 2000 and 2001 in Canada, before she moved to Philadelphia for her job at Temple. Russell, of Montreal, said Constand told him that she was interested in a career in sports broadcasting — she sent her resumé to a station and had her portrait photographed, he said. His account fits into Cosby’s lawyers’ theory that Constand wanted to use Cosby for his money and to boost her own career, and it conflicts with Constand’s testimony that she was not very interested in the mentoring Cosby offered to pursue opportunities in broadcasting.
Russell said he did not know that she had left Canada to work at Temple, and has not spoken to her since 2001 — a fact prosecutors emphasized.
Cosby’s lawyers had wanted Russell to also testify that Constand used drugs. “He said she was addicted to hallucinogenic mushrooms. He said she smoked marijuana and he said she brought drugs over the border,” Mesereau said as he asked Judge Steven T. O’Neill to permit that testimony.
O’Neill did not allow it. Outside the courthouse Friday afternoon, Cosby’s spokesman denounced that ruling.
“You might take away a witness, but you will not take away the truth, you cannot take away the facts, and we still feel that Mr. Cosby will be found not guilty of all charges,” spokesman Andrew Wyatt said, as Cosby stood by his side and anti-Cosby protesters disrupted his statement by playing recorded hip-hop music and using a bubble machine.
Testimony in the case continues Monday.
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