Cosby accuser Constand remains an enigma

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Andrea Constand walks her dogs in Toronto. Constand has avoided the limelight since telling police that Bill Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in January 2004.

They have taken to TV to air their accounts of humiliating assaults. They have lobbed allegations in closely scrutinized legal filings. And in magazines and memoirs, the more than 50 women who have publicly accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct have shared similar stories.

But it was the decade-old claim by one of Cosby's earliest accusers that did last week what none of those accounts had been able to do - land the 78-year-old entertainer in a courtroom, facing a prosecution that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

Yet despite the media frenzy around Cosby's conduct, the woman who may determine his fate largely remains an enigma.

Andrea Constand - a 42-year-old massage therapist and former Temple University employee - first told police more than 10 years ago that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in January 2004 at his Cheltenham Township home. Since then, she has avoided the limelight.

The criminal case against Cosby could force her to break her silence - as soon as this month, if she is called to testify at his Jan. 14 preliminary hearing on the charge of aggravated indecent assault.

Friends describe the onetime college basketball standout from Toronto as determined and a leader.

Cosby has called her a liar.

But the success or failure of a case more than 10 years in the making could depend more on the impression she leaves on a Montgomery County jury.

"She's a very strong woman," her Berwyn-based lawyer, Dolores Troiani, said last week.

Troiani has said her client would like to speak more openly about her experience but remains bound by the agreement she signed in 2005 to settle a lawsuit against the entertainer, for an amount that remains confidential.

Constand maintained that silence even as Cosby was surrendering Wednesday to Cheltenham police.

Dressed in a flight jacket, dark shades, and pink sneakers, she offered only a wry smile to a Toronto Sun reporter, who found her as she walked a pair of poodles through an Ontario park.

Later, Constand tweeted: "Let's all stay classy plz! That includes anybody who may be inserting their opinion as to whether anything was fully investigated period."

But in court records over the last year, Constand has signaled her willingness to fight.

This summer, Constand took a shot at Cosby's self-professed skill at "interpreting female reactions to him." Her lawyer noted in a legal filing that "he did not realize [Constand] was gay until the police told him."

In October, Constand sued former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. for defamation, alleging he had impugned her credibility in interviews last year discussing why he chose not to prosecute her claim a decade ago.

Castor has maintained that Constand could not remember key details of her alleged assault when she first reported it to police. Constand, through her lawyer, fired back, saying she had become "collateral damage" to Castor's political ambitions.

Unlike most of Cosby's accusers, Constand had never expressed an interest in show business prior to their meeting. Their relationship was forged over another Cosby passion - Temple University basketball.

The daughter of a massage therapist and a medical secretary, Constand was drawn to Philadelphia in 2001 after a promising college sports career.

She shined on the University of Arizona women's basketball team in the mid-1990s, but left before graduation to try out for the WNBA. She told an interviewer in 1997 that she hoped to become the first Canadian to play for the fledgling league.

She never made it onto a professional U.S. team but played on her country's national collegiate team and had a brief career in a European league.

The thought of a new career in coaching excited her, and she jumped at the prospect of working as the operations manager for the Temple women's team under then-head coach Dawn Staley, she said in her 2005 lawsuit.

Cosby, the university's most prominent alum and a major booster, testified in his 2006 deposition that he was attracted to Constand from the moment he first spotted her at a Temple game. He quickly took her under his wing.

She became a frequent visitor to his Cheltenham mansion, where Cosby would dispense career advice. He escorted her to events and introduced her to prominent people he knew.

She went to a dinner he hosted with the Swarthmore College president and University of Pennsylvania faculty. She traveled to New York City to meet his entertainment-industry contacts.

Prosecutors have said Constand believed their relationship to be a "sincere friendship."

"She never thought he would hit on her, especially since Cosby is much older than her father," investigators wrote in the affidavit they filed Wednesday.

Cosby is 37 years older than Constand.

And yet twice before the alleged assault, Constand would later tell police, Cosby made sexual advances that she rejected.

Cosby, in legal filings and his own statements to police, has described their relationship differently. Responding to Constand's 2005 complaint, he described their encounters as both social and romantic. The two had "petted and kissed" in the past, he said.

Still, Cosby and Constand agree on a surprising number of facts when it comes to the January 2004 incident at his home.

As she had done several times before, Constand dropped in on Cosby to discuss her career path. Both say he gave her three blue pills and red wine when she complained of feeling drained. Both agree Cosby digitally penetrated her that night, after which she later passed out.

At 4 the next morning, Constand woke up with her sweater bunched up and her bra undone. Cosby, dressed in a robe, gave her a muffin and walked her to the front door.

Cosby maintains what happened that night was romantic and consensual; Constand has described it as an act of a serial predator eager to claim another incapacitated victim.

A few months after the alleged assault, Constand left her job at Temple and returned to her parents' home in Canada. Her mother would later tell police she withdrew from her friends and screamed in her sleep.

Now, Troiani says her client is ready to publicly relive her experience in court.

In a rare public comment this summer, Constand echoed that sentiment.

That night with Cosby "doesn't define me," she told a Toronto Sun reporter in July. "It's in the past. I have a whole other life, and I am happy."

jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608

@jeremyrroebuck