Bill Cosby’s description of the 2004 night Andrea Constand says he drugged and sexually assaulted her began seeping out in court records nearly two years ago, was endlessly picked apart in news accounts, and was ultimately cited as a reason for his arrest.
But for jurors at his trial, the transcript read aloud by a detective late Thursday was new, and most likely the only time they will hear the defendant in his own words. And they were riveted.
“We began to neck and we began to touch and we began to feel and kiss and kiss back,” Montgomery County Detective James Reape said in clinical tones, reading the entertainer’s 2005 sworn deposition testimony from the witness stand as Cosby stared blankly off into the distance. “We rubbed. We kissed. I stopped.”
The testimony was introduced as prosecutors sought to bring to a close a case they have presented over four days – one that could end as soon as Friday. It came on the same day a detective who investigated Constand’s claim in 2005 suggested he and other investigators were caught off guard when Montgomery County’s chief prosecutor at the time abruptly announced the shutdown of the probe.
Cheltenham Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer said detectives had just met to discuss “investigative leads and where we were going” on that February day when District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. publicly announced he would not bring charges.
Much of the evidence introduced Thursday – including Cosby’s 2005 statements to police and the excerpts from the civil deposition he gave before paying to settle a lawsuit brought by Constand – was not new to followers of the case. In fact, former District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman cited a federal judge’s 2015 decision to unseal portions of that deposition as one factor behind her decision to reopen the Constand investigation later that year.
But Reape’s recitation of Cosby’s words still silenced the courtroom.
“I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything,” Cosby testified then about a liaison with Constand prior to the alleged attack. “I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue to go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.”
Cosby’s account of the night of the alleged assault in many ways overlapped with Constand’s testimony this week. Both said he offered her pills, though he said they were tabs of Benadryl.
Both described the same sexual acts.
The primary difference is that Constand said she felt paralyzed and powerless throughout the liaison; Cosby said she consented and seemed to enjoy it.
“She is not asking me a darn thing negative,” the entertainer said, describing Constand’s reaction the morning after the encounter. “She’s giving no viewpoint of anything negative having happened to her.”
Castor, who has been listed as a potential defense witness, has taken credit for eliciting that testimony from Cosby. In previously defending his decision to close the case, he cited concerns about Constand’s credibility but also said it would help her prevail in her civil suit, because it would free Cosby up to be deposed.
Schaffer, who led the investigation both in 2005 and then when it was reopened in 2015, made clear in his testimony Thursday that he believed there was enough evidence to proceed with a prosecution then.
“She seemed anxious to me, a little bit nervous,” he said of his first phone call with Constand. “And I think the overriding thing was that she seemed like she wanted to get her whole story out.”
Cosby also agreed to talk to police during the first review. In a 2005 interview with investigators, the entertainer insisted his sexual contact with the then-operations manager for Temple University’s women’s basketball program was consensual.
“I never intended to have sexual intercourse, like naked bodies, with Andrea,” he said, according to his statement. Later in the interview, asked again whether he had sex with Constand, Cosby replied: “Never asleep or awake.”
Cross-examining Schaffer on Thursday, Cosby’s lawyers returned to a theme they have pounded throughout the trial: inconsistencies and changes in Constand’s statements to police.
Hoping to highlight an instance before the attack where Cosby said he respected Constand’s boundaries, defense attorney Brian McMonagle noted that his client acknowledged he once lifted Constand’s bra and put his mouth to her breast — but stopped when she asked him to.
“Yep,” the detective quipped. “He’s a real gentleman there.”
On Friday, jurors are expected to hear parts of Cosby’s deposition which he describes his past use of drugs in sexual encounters with other women.