Twelve years after she first accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her, the woman whose story could send the 79-year-old entertainer to prison confidently strode into a packed Norristown courtroom Tuesday, smiled, and began the testimony she had so long waited to deliver.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Andrea Constand walked jurors through the January 2004 night when she said Cosby invited her to his Cheltenham Township home and forced three blue pills upon her that left her woozy and powerless to react.
She described how she felt paralyzed as Cosby groped her breasts and slid his hand between her legs, and she teared up only as she recalled the helplessness she felt at the time.
“In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move or my legs to move, but I was frozen and those messages couldn’t get there,” Constand testified. “I wasn’t able to fight him in any way.”
In more than three hours of testimony, Constand spoke calmly and confidently, in a Canadian accent typical of her native Ontario. As she sat tall on the witness stand, her mane of teased-out curls added even more height to her 6-foot stature.
And even as Cosby’s lawyers attacked her credibility by highlighting inconsistencies in statements she had give to police, Constand remained composed.
“I answered all the officers’ questions the best I could,” she said, suggesting that the foundation of her story had not substantially changed since the first time she told it.
Constand’s testimony, which capped off the second day of Cosby’s sexual assault trial, marked the first time since his arrest nearly 18 months ago that he shared a room with the only woman among his more than 60 accusers whose allegations were not too old to prosecute.
It offered a first for Constand, too.
Prior to Tuesday, she had never once spoken about Cosby in public, bound to silence under the terms of a settlement agreement they reached as part of a 2006 lawsuit. When she first reported the alleged assault to police a year earlier, the district attorney at the time chose not to press charges.
But from the moment she began talking in court, Cosby never once looked in her direction. Sitting at his attorney’s side with his head bowed in his palms and a frown plastered across his face, he occasionally shook his head, rolled his eyes, and even grinned at the testimony coming from the witness stand.
Meanwhile, Constand – a 44-year-old former college basketball star who arrived in court wearing white high-top sneakers and a light blue blazer – maintained frequent eye contact with jurors and did not hesitate when asked by Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden to point out her alleged attacker to the jury.
“He was a friend – somebody I trusted, a mentor and somewhat of an older figure to me,” she said.
The stage had been set for the long-awaited courtroom confrontation earlier in the day with commonwealth witnesses called to bolster testimony from another Cosby accuser, Kelly Johnson, who told jurors Monday that she was drugged and assaulted in 1996 in a Los Angeles hotel bungalow – an alleged attack that prosecutors contend foreshadowed Constand’s assault.
But after a bruising cross-examination that left Johnson sobbing as she left the courtroom, prosecutors sought Tuesday to corroborate her claims with testimony from her mother and a lawyer for Johnson’s former employer, Cosby’s talent agency, William Morris.
Constand, however, parried aggressive questioning from the defense with little hesitation.
She walked jurors through the fatherly relationship she formed with Cosby after meeting him 2002 at a Temple University women’s basketball game. She had just started a job working as operations manager for the Temple team.
Cosby started inviting her to his home for dinners, she thought, because “I was a Canadian person in a new city with a new job.”
Asked whether she felt uncomfortable by the romantic overtures he began making toward her by the third time they met, Constand remained resolute.
“I wasn’t scared of him making a pass at me or an advance at me,” she said. “I trusted him and wasn’t scared of him in any way.”
It was on her fifth visit to Cosby’s home, she said, that Cosby offered her pills that he claimed were an herbal remedy – a relief for the stress she was feeling about a change in careers she was considering.
“Put ’em down. They’re your friends,” she recalled him saying. “They will take the edge off.”
She started feeling woozy 20 minutes later, she said. Her vision blurred. Her legs felt like rubber.
“I began to slur my words, and I told Mr. Cosby that I was having trouble seeing him – that I could see two of him,” she said.
Cosby laid her on a couch, she told the jury, then he penetrated her with his hand and placed her hand on his penis. When she woke up still there around 4 the next morning, she said, Cosby silently offered her breakfast and she quietly slipped away.
“I felt really humiliated and I felt really confused,” she said.
Constand’s voice was quieter as Cosby’s lawyer Angela Agrusa peppered her with questions about discrepancies between the account she told jurors Tuesday and the one she first reported to Canadian police in 2005, a year after the alleged assault.
Back then, Constand told investigators she had known Cosby for only six months before the alleged attack. Tuesday, she said they had been friends for 16 months prior.
On the witness stand, she recounted several incidents in which she visited Cosby at his home. She told police in 2005 she had never been alone with him prior to the night he offered her drugs.
“I also testified that I was really nervous” at the time, Constand said. “And I wasn’t able to recall every particular moment that I had seen Mr. Cosby in order of dates. There was a lot, 16 months, to try to compress.”
Agrusa reserved her strongest attacks for how Constand responded in the months after the alleged assault. Although Constand initially told investigators that she cut off contact with Cosby in the months that followed, phone records produced by the defense showed 72 phone calls between them, 53 that Constand had initiated. That number included one 2005 call to Cosby minutes before she called her mother to tell her about the alleged assault for the first time.
For the most part, however, Constand said Tuesday, she had to maintain contact with him for her job. Most of the calls she placed to him were returning messages he had left for her from different phone numbers, she told the jury.
“I thought it would look negative on me and being a representative of coach [Dawn] Staley at the university” not to call him back, she said. “He was a trustee.”
Later that year, Constand left her job at Temple, moved back to Canada, launched a new career as a massage therapist, and tried to forget what had happened to her.
But when Cosby came to Ontario on a tour that summer, she said, her parents, knowing of their daughter’s friendship with the entertainer, asked her to get tickets.
Asked by Feden, the prosecutor, on Tuesday how she felt seeking a favor from the man who she claims attacked her, Constand blinked back tears.
“It was a very big burden on me, but one that I didn’t have the courage at the time to tell my family about,” she said. “And so, I just went along with it.”
Constand will return to the courtroom Wednesday morning, as Cosby’s lawyers resume their cross-examination.
Charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, Cosby, 79, faces up to a decade in prison if convicted.