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Bill Cosby sex-assault case: Everything you need to know

Jeremy Roebuck & Laura McCrystal, STAFF WRITERS

Updated: Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 8:38 AM

Bill Cosby (left), Andrea Constand (right)

Dozens of women have stepped forward since 2014 to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct dating back decades. But the allegations of only one threaten to send him to jail. The trial on charges that Cosby allegedly assaulted Andrea Constand in 2004 opened June 5 at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown. Click here for the latest developments and read on for everything you need to know about the case.

Bill Cosby (center foreground) leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on June 5, 2017. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle (left) leads his client, Bill Cosby, out of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby's lawyer Brian McMonagle (center), rides the elevator down with his client in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on June 5, 2017. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam (right) leads Bill Cosby and spokesman Andrew Wyatt during a break at the courthouse in Norristown. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby walks into courtroom A inside the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on June 5, 2017. Cosby is accused of sexual assault. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Therese Serignese, who claims Bill Cosby raped her when she was 19, walks up the steps to the courtroom inside the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on June 5, 2017. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
On the first day of his trial, Bill Cosby is escorted into the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday June 5, 2017. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
On the first day of his trial Bill Cosby walks past a crush of news media as he is escorted into the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby is helped through the metal detector inside the Montgomery County Courthouse as Keshia Knight Pulliam picks up her bag. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Lawyer Gloria Allred walks up to courtroom A inside the Montgomery County Courthouse. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby walks into courtroom A inside the Montgomery County Courthouse. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Bill Cosby in a hallway during a break in his sex assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse. David Maialetti / Staff Photographer
Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy, Bill Cosby's daughter, on "The Cosby Show," leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after the trial broke for lunch. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
Andrea Constand walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby's sexual-assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on Tuesday. Matt Rourke / AP
Therese Serignese, a nurse from Florida and a Bill Cosby accuser, walks outside the courtroom during a Tuesday lunch break in Norristown. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP
Photo Gallery: Photos: Bill Cosby trial in Norristown

What was Cosby’s alleged crime? Constand says that during a visit to Cosby’s Cheltenham mansion in 2004, she complained of a headache and Cosby encouraged her to take three blue pills. She told police that the next thing she knew, she was fading in and out of consciousness and that she woke up the next morning with her sweater bunched up around her and her bra undone. Cosby has admitted they had sexual contact that night but maintains that it was consensual and that medication he gave her was just an herbal remedy. (READ MORE: Constand confronts Cosby: “I wasn’t able to fight him in any way” | DOCUMENT: Read the criminal complaint)

What are the charges? Cosby is charged with three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault around that single encounter with Constand. If convicted, he could face up to a decade in prison.

Who is Andrea Constand? At the time she met Bill Cosby, Constand was working as the operations manager for Temple University’s women’s basketball team. Cosby, a university trustee, took an interest in her and the two became friends. Constand has described him as a mentor but insists she had no romantic feelings toward him as she is gay. After her alleged assault, Constand moved back to her hometown of Toronto, Canada, where she now works as a massage therapist. (READ MORE: As Cosby’s trial begins, focus shifts to woman whose story could convict him | Cosby accuser Constand remains an enigma)

How did we get here? Constand first came forward in 2005, a year after her alleged assault, but then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to bring charges, saying he didn’t believe the case would stand up in court. After that decision, Constand filed a civil suit against Cosby, which they settled out of court in 2006 for an undisclosed sum. But as the Cosby scandal re-ignited in late 2014, interest in Constand’s claims was revived. A federal judge in Philadelphia unsealed excerpts from Cosby’s deposition in the civil suit, which led a new Montgomery County District Attorney, Risa Vetri Ferman, to reopen the criminal investigation and charge Cosby in December 2015.

Where is the trial taking place? After a push by the defense team to move the trial from Montgomery County over concerns that pervasive media coverage had tainted the local jury pool, Judge Steven T. O’Neill opted in a Feb. 27 order to keep the case in Norristown but pick jury from Allegheny County, which is in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania and includes Pittsburgh. (READ MORE: Will the Cosby trial be good for Norristown? | Cosby asks to move trial from Montco, blaming politics, ‘slanted’ media)

What does the jury look like? The court chose 12 jurors — seven men and five women — and six alternates during a three-day process in Pittsburgh that ended May 24. Only two black people were chosen as jurors, with two more as alternates, leading Cosby’s lawyers to lob accusations that prosecutors were intentionally trying to keep African Americans off the jury. The judge, however, found that government lawyers had justifiable reasons for excluding all of the potential jurors they struck. All but one juror said they had prior knowledge of Cosby’s legal woes but vowed to set their opinions aside. Several also said they had friends or close relatives who had previously been victims of sexual assault.

Will Cosby testify? In his first broadcast interview in nearly two years, Cosby told Sirius XM radio host and Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish on May 16 that he doesn’t intend to testify at his trial. He also questioned whether racism has played a role in fueling the scandal. (READ MORE: Bill Cosby says he won’t testify at his trial)

How many accusers will testify? Prosecutors initially sought to call 13 other women to testify, arguing that their allegations that Cosby drugged and assaulted them in past years closely match Constand’s claims. But after defense arguments that many of the claims were too old and too vague to vet, O’Neill ruled in November that only one additional accuser — a former assistant to Cosby’s talent agent — would be allowed to take the witness stand. (READ MORE: Cosby trial opens with other accuser setting the stage for Constand | Cosby trial a must see for star’s other accusers)

What is the evidence? To bolster Constand’s claims, prosecutors are presenting evidence that they say shows Cosby acted in the way she describes.

*Constand’s testimony. The trial featured the first public testimony from Constand, who has remained silent for 11 years under a non-disclosure agreement she signed as part of a settlement with Cosby in 2006. Her police statements from when she first came forward provided a preview of her testimony. (READ MORE: Cosby’s accuser: ‘I just wanted to confront him | DOCUMENT: Read Andrea Constand’s 2005 statements to police, starting p.9)

*The Deposition. In a 2006 deposition as part of Constand’s civil suit against him, Cosby discussed buying the party drug Quaaludes to use in what he described as consensual sexual encounters with women. (READ MORE: Cosby judge: Jurors can hear about quaaludes, not Spanish fly | Cosby loses bid to block prosecutors from using his deposition at sex-assault trial)

*Cosby’s comedy act. The judge, however, has barred prosecutors from bringing up a comedy bit Cosby used frequently in his early career about the aphrodisiac “Spanish Fly.” Government lawyers said it showed his fixation with using chemical substances to seduce women, but the defense balked at those conclusions and threatened to call an expert witness to explain the difference between jokes and reality to jurors if prosecutors were allowed to proceed. (READ MORE: Spanish Fly is not a date-rape drug, Cosby lawyers insist | Cosby on seducing women: ‘They need chemicals’)

*The recording. A year after the alleged assault, Constand’s mother secretly recorded a phone conversation she had with Cosby in which he admitted having sexual contact with her daughter and offered to fly Constand and her mother to meet him. Cosby’s lawyers say the recording was made illegally. (READ MORE: Cosby suspected his call was recorded, prosecutors say)

What does the defense say? Aside from the fact that the case is 13 years old and there is no physical evidence, Cosby’s defense team has attacked Constand’s credibility as a witness. In pretrial hearings, they have highlighted that she waited a year to notify police, cited what they call inconsistencies in her story and note that she did not cut off all contact with Cosby after her alleged assault occurred. In an April interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Cosby lawyer Angela Agrusa also suggested that the defense may call expert witnesses to suggest Constand has developed false memories surrounding her sexual encounter with Cosby. (READ MORE: In Cosby case, questions of credibility, consistency)

Didn’t Cosby try to get the case thrown out? Judge O’Neill has rejected all of Cosby’s attempts to have the case dismissed. The defense has cited everything including their client’s blindness, the fact that Constand did not testify at his preliminary hearing last year, and a purported deal he struck with a former Montgomery County district attorney that he would never be charged in connection with Constand’s claims.

Who are the lawyers? Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, a career prosecutor, is leading the government’s case against Cosby. In his first run for office, he was elected in late 2015 with a campaign that ran television ads focused on the Cosby case. Cosby is represented by Angela Agrusa, a Los Angeles-based attorney, and Brian J. McMonagle, one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after defense lawyers, whose past clients include mobsters, rappers, basketball stars and late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Keep up with every development in Bill Cosby’s case with our day-by-day recaps and explainer on everything you need to know about the case and its major players.

Jeremy Roebuck & Laura McCrystal, STAFF WRITERS

Read full story: Bill Cosby sex-assault case: Everything you need to know

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