Cosby’s sex-assault retrial won’t be like the first one
Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault retrial is guaranteed to be anything but a rerun.
With opening statements set for today in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, prosecutors have lined up a parade of accusers to make the case that the man revered as “America’s Dad” lived a double life as one of Hollywood’s biggest predators.
Cosby, 80, is fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy: attacking Andrea Constand as a greedy liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.
“You’ve seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed,” said professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Cosby’s first trial last spring ended in a cliffhanger, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
The comedian, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
His retrial is taking place in a radically changed and potentially more hostile environment. The #MeToo movement caught fire four months after the first trial, raising awareness of sexual misconduct as it toppled Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men.
Nearly every potential juror questioned for the case this time knew about #MeToo.
After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge Steven O’Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Constand’s allegations.
This time, O’Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers testify as they attempt to show Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women. The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand last time.
In another difference, the judge this time is letting Cosby’s legal team call as a witness a former co-worker of Constand’s at Temple University who said Constand spoke of setting up a “high-profile person” so she could sue and enjoy a big payday. Constand’s lawyer has said the co-worker is lying.
The judge also decided the jury can hear the answer to one of the biggest questions hanging over the case: How much did Cosby pay Constand to settle her lawsuit against him more than a decade ago? The two sides agreed at the first trial not to mention the lawsuit.