After hours on the stand, Constand sticks to her story

Bill Cosby accuser Andrea Constand arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse on the third day of Cosby’s sexual assault trial.

The cross-examination of Andrea Constand, the central accuser in the sexual-assault case that could send Bill Cosby to prison, was promised as a slugfest not to be missed.

For months, Cosby’s top-flight defense lawyers — and even a former Montgomery County district attorney who once investigated her claim — had vowed that her credibility had been irreparably harmed by the way she acted, and the shifting stories she gave police, in the months after her alleged 2004 attack.

They had sworn that once confronted in court, Constand’s claims would collapse under the weight of their own inconsistencies.

But when she left the witness stand Wednesday, after more than six hours of pointed defense grilling over two days, Constand had held firm.

She calmly shrugged off insinuations that she and Cosby ever had a romantic relationship. She brushed away questions about the many phone calls between them after the incident, telling jurors that she was simply returning messages from Cosby related to her job with the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where he was the most famous alumnus and on the board of trustees.

And when challenged Wednesday over perhaps the most glaring discrepancy in her account — telling police early on that the assault occurred in March 2004 after a dinner out with Cosby and his friends, and then saying Tuesday it happened months earlier, after a quiet night alone with him in his home — Constand, 44, remained unfazed.

“I was just confused,” she said. “I realized I was mistaken.”

Throughout, the onetime college basketball standout and current massage therapist remained poised and polite, addressing defense lawyer Angela Agrusa as “ma’am” as her questioning became its most intense.

As he had Tuesday, when for the first time Constand publicly described the attack, Cosby spent most of the day staring down at the defense table, avoiding glances in her direction.

The completion of Constand’s testimony after only the third day of the trial — and a tidy round of questioning for her mother later on Wednesday — seemed to raise the stakes that the high-profile case was barreling much more quickly to its end than had been predicted. Judge Steven T. O’Neill told the 12 jurors and six alternates who had been bused to Norristown from the Pittsburgh area that things were moving more quickly than the two-week trial he initially predicted.

Prosecutors gave no sign of whom their remaining witnesses might be, though they previously signaled they wanted to call experts on the treatment of sexual-abuse victims and forensic toxicology.

The defense, too, remained mum about whom it might call — a list that could include Bruce L. Castor Jr., the Montgomery County district attorney who declined in 2005 to prosecute Constand’s case, citing concerns about her ability to withstand challenges to her credibility.

Just a day earlier, Constand had spoken publicly for the first time about the night she says Cosby drugged her with three blue pills at his Cheltenham residence and took advantage of her when she passed out.

Wednesday’s questioning got off to a ponderous start as Agrusa pored over phone records showing the 53 calls Constand made to Cosby in the months after she says he molested her.

The attorney grew accusatory at points, suggesting that early on, Constand had tried to downplay the 16-month relationship she had with the entertainer before the purported attack — one that included gifts Cosby gave her, such as cashmere sweaters, perfume, and a $225 hair dryer.

(Constand initially told investigators in Canada that the assault had occurred the first time she was alone with him, though later she told authorities in Cheltenham that she and the entertainer had developed a friendship.)

“So you knew … that Mr. Cosby was interested in you romantically?” Agrusa asked.

Constand replied: “No, he never said a word to me.”

But any damage inflicted by Agrusa’s interrogation seemed to unravel in minutes, once Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden had the chance to question her witness again.

Returning to the phone logs, Feden pointed out that in almost every case the calls Constand placed to Cosby came after she had checked her voicemail — a pattern that bolstered her claim she was merely returning messages from Cosby, the prosecutor said.

All were made from Constand’s Temple-issued cellphone.

“I was either returning a phone call or picking up a voice mail, then calling him back,” Constand said.

Later, in an attempt to establish a romantic past, Agrusa highlighted Constand’s account of a fireside dinner at Cosby’s home with brandy and wine, in which she told police he placed his hand on her thigh.

But Feden shot back, asking Constand to read the next line in her police statement, one Agrusa had failed to recount: “It wasn’t a romantic time, no.”

Late in the day, prosecutors called Constand’s mother to bolster her daughter’s account.

In polite but firm testimony, Gianna Constand recalled that she had noticed a change in her daughter when she moved home from Philadelphia in spring 2004.

“She was having a lot of nightmares,” her mother said. “It was very, very frequent that she would scream in her sleep or wake up in a sweat.”

After learning about the alleged assault in early 2005, Gianna Constand said, she called Cosby and confronted him aggressively in a more-than-two-hour phone call. He described his sexual contact with her daughter and claimed it was consensual, she said.

But he also apologized.

“He said, ‘I apologize to Andrea and I apologize to you, Mom,’” she testified.

What the jury made, however, of Constand’s apparent unflappability remains an open question. Did she succeed in convincing the panel of seven men and five women that she was a victim of a 13-year-old sex crime? Or succumb to her defense portrayal as a woman who encouraged Cosby’s romantic overtures?

Moments before Constand left the witness stand, Fedden sought to emphasize one point.

“What was the one thing I asked you to do when I met you?” the prosecutor asked.

Constand replied: “Tell the truth.”

 

 

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