How will ‘MeToo’ rise affect next Cosby trial?
By KRISTEN DE GROOT
Jurors couldn’t agree the first time around whether to accept a woman’s story that “America’s Dad,” Bill Cosby, sexually assaulted her over a decade ago. Now he faces a retrial in less than 90 days in a vastly different cultural climate, one in which powerful men from Hollywood to the U.S. Senate are being toppled by allegations of sexual misconduct.
The jury in Cosby’s case was deadlocked on charges he drugged and molested a woman in 2004, and the judge declared a mistrial in June. But that was before the revelations about movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement burst into the public sphere.
The shift is clearly on Cosby’s mind. He quipped to a reporter after shaking her hand Wednesday outside a Philadelphia restaurant: “Please don’t put me on MeToo.”
Legal experts say the seismic change in believing and supporting victims of sexual harassment and assault – and the near-immediate ramifications for so many famous men – will surely trickle into the Cosby retrial, slated to begin April 2.
“Given the split last time, the challenge is going to be in jury selection,” said Los Angeles lawyer Mark Geragos, who is not involved in the Cosby case but whose clients have included Michael Jackson. “Almost all cases are won and lost in jury selection, this case in particular.”
In Cosby’s first trial, jury selection was moved to Pittsburgh over defense fears that widespread publicity could make it difficult to find unbiased jurors in the Philadelphia area. Cosby has a new legal team, and its strategy may be very different.
The star of “The Cosby Show” is charged with knocking out accuser Andrea Constand with pills and sexually assaulting her at his home near Philadelphia. He has said Constand, a former executive with Temple University’s women’s basketball program, consented to their sexual encounter.
“This is about whether you believe the victim or not, and the events of the last year certainly make the case harder for Cosby,” said Philadelphia criminal lawyer Alan J. Tauber, who isn’t involved in the case. “Ordinary people are seeing people they respect and trust undermined by terrible accusations.”
During his first trial, the comedian’s lawyers portrayed Cosby and Constand as lovers who had enjoyed secret “romantic interludes” and tried to sow doubt about her claims.
The lawyers reminded jurors she waited a year to contact the authorities and suggested her story evolved during interviews with police. They also noted Constand made dozens of telephone calls to Cosby, who was a member of Temple’s board, after the alleged assault.
“This isn’t talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover,” former Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle said of one call that lasted 49 minutes. “Why are we running from the truth of this case – this relationship? Why?”