NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The jury at Bill Cosby’s trial began deliberating Monday over whether he drugged and molested a woman more than a decade ago in a case that has already helped demolish the 79-year-old comedian’s good-guy image.
A conviction could send Cosby to prison for the rest of his life, completing the stunning late-life downfall of one of the most beloved stars in show business.
The fast-moving case went to the jury of seven men and five women on Day 6 of the trial after closing arguments gave differing portrayals of what happened between Cosby and Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia estate.
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle told the jury that Cosby and Constand were lovers who had enjoyed secret “romantic interludes” and that the 2004 encounter was consensual. McMonagle said that while the comedian had been unfaithful to his wife, he didn’t commit a crime.
Prosecutors countered by saying “fancy lawyering” can’t save Cosby from his own words — namely, his admission about groping Constand after giving her pills he knew could put her to sleep.
“Drugging somebody and putting them in a position where you can do what you want with them is not romantic. It’s criminal,” District Attorney Kevin Steele said.
Jurors got the case at 5:30 p.m. and deliberated for 90 minutes before ordering dinner. The judge told them they could work as late as they wanted. Cosby and his lawyers were believed to be huddling in a room near the courtroom.
After the prosecution took five days to outline its side, the defense case consisted of just one witness, a detective, and six minutes of testimony Monday. Cosby did not take the stand, ending days of suspense over whether the jury would hear directly from him.
Legal experts said testifying would have been a risky move that could have opened the TV star to withering cross-examination about some of the 60 or so other women who have accused him of drugging or molesting them.
He is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each one punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.
The black comedian once known as America’s Dad for his portrayal of kindly Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” suggested recently that race could have played a role in the case against him. The jury included two black members.
McMonagle, in his closing argument, tried to sow doubt about Constand’s story, saying it had evolved during her interviews with police. He also pointed out that Constand telephoned Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault. Constand told the jury she was merely returning his calls about the women’s basketball squad at Temple University, where she was director of team operations and he was a member of the board of trustees.
“This isn’t talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover,” McMonagle said of one call that lasted 49 minutes. “Why are we running from the truth of this case — this relationship? Why?”
Cosby’s wife of 53 years, Camille, was in the courtroom for the first time in the trial. She was stoic during the defense argument but left when it was the prosecution’s turn. She sat in the front row, across the aisle from Constand, who didn’t react to McMonagle’s two-hour closing but smiled at the end of it.
Constand, 44, testified last week that Cosby gave her three blue pills and then penetrated her with his fingers against her will as she lay paralyzed and half-conscious. She denied they had a romantic relationship and said she had rebuffed previous advances from him.
She sued Cosby after prosecutors in 2005 declined to press charges. Cosby testified over a decade ago as part of that lawsuit, eventually settling with her for an undisclosed sum. His deposition was sealed for years until a judge released parts in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press, prompting a new set of prosecutors to take a fresh look at the case and charge him.
McMonagle told the jury that Cosby’s freedom is at stake now, not just his finances. “This is not a civil case about money, money, money. We’re talking about all the man’s tomorrows,” he said.
In the prosecution’s closing argument, Steele said that Cosby’s lurid statements from 2005 helped corroborate Constand’s allegations. Steele also reminded jurors about a telephone conversation in which Cosby apologized to Constand’s mother and described himself as a “sick man.”
“This is where all the fancy lawyering can’t get you around your own words,” Steele said.
In his 2005 deposition, Cosby said he obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s and offered the now-banned sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with.
He also said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl before the “petting” began. Prosecutors have suggested he drugged her with something stronger — perhaps quaaludes.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.