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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Bill Cosby admitted sex claims, jury told as assault trial begins

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania (Matt Rourke/AP)
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania (Matt Rourke/AP)

Bill Cosby has gone on trial accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade ago.

A prosecutor warned the jury not to fall into the trap of confusing the 79-year-old comedian with the beloved family man he played on TV.

Cosby used his power and fame to violate a former college basketball manager, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said in her opening statement at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Philadelphia.

The TV star previously admitted under oath that he gave Andrea Constand pills and touched her intimately as she lay on his couch, the prosecutor said.

"She couldn't say no," Ms Feden said. "She can't move, she can't talk. Completely paralysed. Frozen. Lifeless."

Defence lawyer Brian McMonagle immediately attacked what he said were inconsistencies in Ms Constand's story.

He disputed that Ms Constand - who was willing to be identified - was incapacitated, and made the case that she and Cosby, who was married, had a romantic relationship. Mr McMonagle said Cosby gave her the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl only after she complained she could not sleep.

Mr McMonagle said that Ms Constand changed the date of the encounter from mid-March to mid-January of 2004. And he said Ms Constand initially told police that she and Cosby had never spoken after the encounter, when, in fact, phone records show the two spoke 72 times after mid-January - and two-thirds of the calls were initiated by Ms Constand.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He could get 10 years in prison if convicted.

Cosby's wife, Camille, was absent as the TV star, using a wooden cane, hobbled past dozens of cameras into the courthouse. He chatted with actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on the top-rated Cosby Show, as they walked together.

Cosby smiled but said nothing when someone asked how he was feeling.

Ms Knight Pulliam said during Monday's court lunch break that "ultimately it's about standing by your truth." And, she said, her truth was to be at court and to be supportive.

She said it is not always easy to do what you feel is right when there is so much controversy, but she leads her life trying to be "genuine and authentic".

Ms Knight Pulliam said she does not condone any form of sexual assault and that she is sensitive to the gravity of the charges against Cosby, given her Kamp Kizzy Foundation's mission to promote self-esteem, empowerment and motivation in girls. She said she is praying for everyone involved, adding she would accept whatever verdict is handed down.

Ms Constand, 44, of the Toronto area, is expected to take the stand this week and tell her story in public for the first time. Ms Feden said a woman who claims Cosby drugged and assaulted her in a similar fashion in 1996 will also testify.

Cosby built a good-guy reputation as a father and family man, on screen and off, during his extraordinary 50-year career in entertainment. He created TV characters, most notably Dr Cliff Huxtable, with crossover appeal among blacks and whites alike. His TV shows, films and comedy tours earned him an estimated 400 million dollars (£309 million).

Ms Feden told jurors that celebrities like Cosby are seen as "larger than life".

"We think we really know them," she said. "In reality, we only have a glimpse of who they really are."

Prosecutors had wanted to call as many as 13 of Cosby's more than 60 accusers as witnesses, but Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill ruled that only Ms Constand and the other woman could take the stand.

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who attended the first day of the trial, told reporters she is hopeful "there will be justice in this case".

Ms Allred represents several of Cosby's accusers, including a woman who worked for the comedian's agent at the William Morris agency. She will be the only other accuser allowed to testify for the prosecution.

"I'm not going to predict what the outcome is," Ms Allred said. "We'll see what the evidence is. But this case is not going to be decided on optics, it's going to be decided on the evidence, and finally, it's Mr Cosby who's going to have to face that evidence and confront the accusers who are against him."

Mr McMonagle suggested Ms Constand and the other accuser set to testify were seeking payouts over the allegations.

He told jurors that Cosby had apologised to Ms Constand's mother in a phone call the year after the encounter not because he had assaulted her, but to say: "I'm sorry, I'm a married man, and I never should have done it."

Cosby's lawyers tried repeatedly to get the case thrown out. They said Cosby testified in the lawsuit only after being promised he could never be charged. They argued that the delayed prosecution makes the case impossible to defend, given that witnesses have died, memories have faded and Cosby, they say, is blind.


Press Association

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