Bill Cosby Trial: The Who, What and What Next

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The verdict was to be called on Tuesday, but the fate of famed US comedian, Bill Cosby, will have to wait till at least Wednesday, June 14, in the criminal case against him involving alleged sexual assault of a woman in 2004.

Cosby, 79, famous for the Cosby Show which aired from 1984 to 1992 for eight seasons, has been embroiled in charges of sexual predation and improper conduct since 2014. Many women have come forward indicating the once-popular face of US sitcom and a Black American icon had taken advantage of his appeal and position to treat them in appropriate ways, without their consent.

What did he do?

The current criminal case against Bill Cosby is a three-count charge of aggravated indecent assault, drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 when she was 30. Constand was a former employee of Temple University, as a basketball team staffer. The alleged assault, which involved Cosby allegedly touching Constand’s breast and genitals while she was “frozen” is said to have occurred in his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004. Bill Cosby is an alma mater of Temple University, receiving his Bachelor’s in 1971.

Cosby admitted to giving her pills – an allergy medicine called Benadryl – while also testifying that he called “three friends to help you [Constand] relax”. It is suspected that Cosby may have given her a stronger pill, perhaps the Quaaludes which he had admitted to obtaining in the 70s with the intention of giving to women with whom he intended to have sex, according to the Associated Press. In his defense, he said he presented those pills to them in a way one would offer a drink to a guest. Quaaludes were popular in the US in the 1970s as a party drug but were banned in 1982.

Has he been guilty before?

Besides Constand, the fourth day of the trial on Friday, June 9, was attended by two other Cosby accusers, Victoria Valantino and Linda Kirkpatrick. They are three of about 60 women who have accused Cosby of one form of inappropriate sexual conduct or another, some dating back to 50 years ago, before some of his children were born. In March, a claim of “intentional affliction of emotional distress” by three women – Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz and Joan Tarshis – against Bill Cosby was dismissed. Many of the other women’s cases against Cosby can no longer be heard as the statute of limitations for prosecution has run out, Constand’s case being the only one leading to a criminal charge.

On Monday, Bill Cosby did not testify in his own defense at the sexual assault trial. His defense, led by Brian McMonagle, rested after a single witness – a policeman – took the stand for a total of six minutes.

Predator or lover? Mentor or manipulator?

One of his accusers, Victoria Valentino, has called him “the biggest serial rapist in American history”. His attorney, McMonagle, made the case for a man who had been an “unfaithful” husband, apparently to deflect from any conclusions on Cosby as a purposive assaulter. In her statement on Facebook in April, Cosby’s youngest daughter, Evin, admitted that “like many celebrities tempted by opportunity, he had his affairs, but that was between him and my mother”. The Attorney, Brian McMonagle, while trying to convince the jury that Cosby had lifted generations of Americans from the strata of hate towards the pedestal of love that went beyond colour, aimed to persuade that Constand was not a victim, but a “lover” of Cosby.

What next?

The Jury on Cosby’s case is composed of seven men and five women, all from the Pittsburgh area of Philadelphia in the US state of Ohio. The 12 jurors are expected to come up with a verdict on Tuesday, which could see Cosby committed to as much as a 30-year sentence. Each count of his charge carries a possible 10-year sentence.

A four-hour deliberation followed after Monday’s hearings, but observers have not been able to glean much from the faces of the jurors as to determine what their leanings could be. Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post described them as “motionless” during hearings.

Prosecutor, Kevin Steele, has asked the jury to indict Cosby, weaving in all of the comedian’s previous admissions about drugging and sexual preferences, to allude that he has already confessed to the charge of assault.

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