The key people to watch at Bill Cosby’s sex assault retrial
Opening statements start Monday in Bill Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges stemming from allegations he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. The key figures to watch include:
Cosby, 80, amassed a $400 million fortune as an actor and comedian best known for the family-oriented sitcom, “The Cosby Show.” His reputation as “America’s Dad” has been tattered in recent years as about 60 women came forward to accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them. Cosby didn’t testify at his first trial, which ended in a hung jury last year, but the jury did hear parts of a deposition he gave in accuser Andrea Constand’s related 2005 lawsuit. The same could happen at his retrial. Cosby was arrested on Dec. 30, 2015, days before the 12-year deadline to file the aggravated sexual assault charge. In the deposition, he said he gave Constand pills that night before putting his hand down her pants. However, he said they had a consensual, romantic relationship.
Andrea Constand, 44, managed the women’s basketball team at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. She met Cosby there in 2002 and said he drugged and molested her in early 2004. She left Temple months later to move home to the Toronto area and start a career as a massage therapist. She filed a police report against Cosby in early 2005, then sued him when Pennsylvania authorities declined to press charges. The settlement they forged in 2006, after Cosby gave four days of deposition testimony, ended the case and swore both sides to secrecy. A judge recently agreed to let retrial jurors hear how much Cosby paid her. The figure didn’t come up at the first trial. The Associated Press does not usually identify people who say they are sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has given.
ACCUSERS WHO’LL TESTIFY
Judge Steven O’Neill is allowing five additional accusers to testify as prosecution witnesses about allegations dating to the early 1980s. Cosby’s lawyers have said the women’s memories are tainted at best and tried to get them barred from testifying. They are:
— Janice Dickinson, a model and reality TV star, who says Cosby knocked her out with a pill and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982, when she was 27 and Cosby was 45.
— Janice Baker-Kinney, a bartender who says she awoke naked with signs she had been sexually assaulted after Cosby insisted she take two pills in 1982, when she was 24 and he was 45.
— Heidi Thomas, an aspiring actress who says Cosby forced her to perform oral sex as she faded in and out of consciousness after he gave her a drink in 1984, when she was 24 and he was 46.
— Chelan Lasha, a model and aspiring actress who says she lay immobilized and unable to speak as Cosby pinched her nipple and humped her leg after he gave her a pill he described as an antihistamine in 1986, when she was 17 and he was 48.
— Lise-Lotte Lublin, an aspiring actress who alleges Cosby sexually assaulted her after prodding her to take two drinks to relax in 1989, when she was 23 and he was about 52.
DEFENSE LAWYER TOM MESEREAU
Tom Mesereau is a high-profile Hollywood lawyer best known for winning an acquittal in Michael Jackson’s 2005 child molestation trial. Mesereau has also represented boxer Mike Tyson, rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight and a Playboy bunny. Last year, he won an acquittal for a black teen accused of killing an Iraq War veteran in Alabama. Mesereau is joined at the defense table by Los Angeles appellate lawyer Becky James, former federal prosecutor Kathleen Bliss and Philadelphia litigator Lane Vines, who has specialized in securities and investor fraud cases.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY KEVIN STEELE
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele was the top deputy in the office in July 2015 when a judge unsealed Cosby’s deposition and then-boss Risa Vetri Ferman decided to reopen Constand’s 2005 police complaint. Steele, a Democrat, was running to succeed her while she ran for judge. His opponent was Bruce Castor, the prosecutor who had decided not to charge Cosby in 2005. Steele attacked Castor over the decision in campaign ads and went on to win the November election. He announced Cosby’s arrest the following month.
JUDGE STEVEN O’NEILL
Steven O’Neill, the administrative judge of Montgomery County’s criminal court, presided over the first Cosby trial and is continuing to handle the retrial after rejecting defense pressure to step aside. He ruled he’s “not biased or prejudiced” by his wife’s work as a social worker who counsels sexual assault victims. O’Neill was appointed in 2002 and elected to 10-year terms in 2004 and 2014. He worked for five years as a prosecutor and 18 years as a criminal defense lawyer.
For more on the Cosby trial, go to apnews.com/tag/CosbyonTrial