By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Bill Cosby’s lawyer launched a blistering courtroom attack on the comedian’s accuser Tuesday, branding her a con artist whose goal was “money, money and lots more money.”
Tom Mesereau told jurors in his opening statement at the former TV star’s sex-assault trial that Andrea Constand wasn’t attracted to Cosby but was “madly in love” with his fame and money and made up the accusations to score a big payday.
He said she “hit the jackpot” when Cosby paid her $3.4 million more than a decade ago to settle her lawsuit over allegations he drugged and molested her in 2004.
Prosecutors say it was the “Cosby Show” star who betrayed Constand’s trust by giving her pills and then violating her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion. Cosby, 80, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A jury deadlocked at his first trial last spring, setting the stage for a retrial.
Seeking to blunt any skepticism about Constand’s behavior after the alleged assault, prosecutors called as their first witness Tuesday a sexual assault expert, Dr. Barbara Ziv, who told jurors that it is common for victims to be reluctant to go to police and normal for them to maintain contact with perpetrators.
Constand spoke with Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault and waited more than a year before going to the police.
Ziv, a psychiatrist, also told jurors that the use of drugs and alcohol can lead to clouded memories and prevent victims from giving a clear account of what happened to them.
Some 60 women have come forward with allegations against Cosby dating to the 1960s. In a deposition he gave as part of Constand’s lawsuit, the long-married comedian acknowledged giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
In the deposition, Cosby said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl. Prosecutors have suggested he gave her something stronger — perhaps quaaludes, a popular party drug in the 1970s that was banned in the U.S. in 1982.
During his opening statement Monday, District Attorney Kevin Steele revealed the amount of Cosby’s settlement with Constand, in an apparent attempt to suggest the comedian wouldn’t have paid out so much money if the accusations against him were false.
Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation case, told the jury instead that Constand was in deep financial trouble and set out to exploit her relationship with Cosby.
Constand stiffed roommates on utility bills, racked up big credit card bills and operated a Ponzi scheme while running women’s basketball operations at Temple University, where Cosby was an alumnus and trustee, Mesereau said.
He said Constand went to Cosby’s home at least a half-dozen times and sneaked into bed with him at a Connecticut casino.
“You’re going to be wondering: What did she want from Bill Cosby?” Mesereau said. “You already know the answer: money, money and lots more money.”
He said Constand outlined her scheme to a Temple University colleague, Marguerite Jackson. The defense plans to call Jackson as a witness, and Mesereau said she will testify that Constand — inspired by a story they saw on the news — mused about setting up a celebrity so she could sue and get money.
“A con artist is what you get, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” the defense attorney said. “A con artist. And we’ll prove it.”
Cosby’s legal team at his first trial wasn’t nearly as aggressive in attacking Constand, focusing instead on inconsistencies in her statements to police and arguing the pair had a romantic relationship. The jury that time was not permitted to hear about the settlement, nor was Jackson allowed to take the stand.
Under no such constraints this time, the defense let loose on Constand.
If Constand wasn’t interested in Cosby’s advances, Mesereau said, “Why do you keep going back and back and back and back? Because there’s something that you want. I wonder what it is. She’s now a multimillionaire because she pulled it off.”
Prosecutors have lined up five additional accusers to make the case that the entertainer once revered as “America’s Dad” lived a double life as one of Hollywood’s biggest predators. Only one additional accuser took the stand at the first trial.
Mesereau urged jurors to ignore the other accusers, calling them irrelevant to this case. He also urged them to set aside any sympathy they might have for the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct that has toppled Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men in recent months.
The comedian arrived at the courthouse Tuesday amid heightened security after a topless protester who appeared on several episodes of “The Cosby Show” as a child jumped a barricade on Monday and got within a few feet of Cosby as he entered the courthouse.
Cosby was surrounded by five sheriff’s deputies as he walked inside Tuesday.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.