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Thursday 24 August 2017

Bill Cosby and his accuser were lovers, sexual assault trial told

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial with his wife Camille (AP)
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial with his wife Camille (AP)

Bill Cosby's trial raced towards a close as his lawyer told jurors the comedian and the woman who accuses him of drugging and molesting her were lovers who had enjoyed secret "romantic interludes".

Declining to take the stand in his own defence, the 79-year-old entertainer left it to his lawyer Brian McMonagle to argue that Cosby's 2004 sexual encounter with Andrea Constand was consensual.

Mr McMonagle said that while Cosby had been unfaithful to his wife, he did not commit a crime.

Cosby, then 66, had a close friendship with Ms Constand that occasionally turned sexual, Mr McMonagle said in his closing argument.

He pointed out she called Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault.

Ms Constand told the jury the calls mostly involved the women's basketball team at Temple University, where she worked and he was a powerful trustee.

"This isn't talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover," Mr McMonagle said of one phone call that lasted 49 minutes.

"Why are we running from the truth of this case - this relationship? Why? I don't understand it."

Cosby's wife of 53 years, Camille - in the courtroom for the first time in the six-day trial - was stoic during the defence argument.

The comedian could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

The prosecution was expected to deliver its closing argument on Monday afternoon, and the jury could get the case later in the day.

Ms Constand, 44, testified last week that Cosby gave her three blue pills and then penetrated her with her fingers against her will as she lay paralysed and half-conscious.

She sued Cosby after prosecutors declined to press charges in 2005.

Cosby testified in 2005 as part of her lawsuit, eventually settling the case for an undisclosed sum.

His deposition was sealed for years until a judge released parts in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press.

Mr McMonagle told jurors that Cosby's freedom is at stake now, not just his finances.

"This is not a civil case about money, money, money. We're talking about all the man's tomorrows," he said.

Mr McMonagle used a big screen to show jurors how Ms Constand's story evolved and details changed over three interviews she gave to police after coming forward about a year after she says he assaulted her at his suburban Philadelphia home.

He noted that Ms Constand initially had trouble pinpointing when the assault occurred, telling police in one interview it happened in March 2004 and in others that it was January 2004.

He said she told police in her first interview that she had never been alone with Cosby before the alleged attack, but later admitted she had spent time alone with him at his home and at a Connecticut resort.

Cosby told police they had been romantic three times before.

His count includes times he said he brushed her leg or cupped her face in his hands.

Ms Constand, then 31, said she twice rebuffed his efforts, including one time when he tried to unzip her pants. Cosby told police he succeeded.

"Why on earth would you go to the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, into a man's bedroom, after a man unbuttons your pants and puts his hands down your pants?" Mr McMonagle asked.

Cosby's lawyers put on a case consisting of just one witness and six minutes of testimony earlier on Monday before resting their case, calling the detective who led the 2005 investigation.

Detective Richard Schaffer was one of 12 witnesses who testified during the prosecution case.

In his six-minute appearance on Monday, he said Ms Constand had visited with Cosby at an out-of-state casino and that police knew he had vision problems more than a decade ago.

Cosby has said he is legally blind because of glaucoma.

The judge shot down a defence request to call a second witness, a woman who worked with Ms Constand at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Ms Constand has done.

AP

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