After 16 hours, jury unable to reach verdict at Bill Cosby trial

NORRISTOWN >> After 16 hours of deliberations over two days, a jury weighing the fate of actor Bill Cosby was unable to reach a verdict Tuesday at his sexual assault trial.

“Simply, you are exhausted. I respect that,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill addressed the jury of seven men and five women shortly after 9 p.m. “You are doing an incredible job, showing fidelity to your oath.”

O’Neill ordered the sequestered jury, which was selected in Pittsburgh, to return to court at 9 a.m. Wednesday to resume deliberations. The jury deliberated four hours on Monday and another 12 hours on Tuesday.

William Henry Cosby Jr., as his name appears on charging documents, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with his alleged sexual contact with Andrea Constand, the former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University, at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004. If convicted of the charges, Cosby faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison.

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Throughout the day, jurors sent three questions to the judge and asked to see certain trial exhibits or to hear certain witness testimony again. The judge complied each time and jurors returned to their deliberations.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, hordes of media gathered waiting for word of a verdict, their skin glistening or reddened from the 95-degree heat.

Members of the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Woman were also present outside the courthouse carrying signs reading, “Stand With Survivors” and “Thank You Andrea.”

“We came here to say thank you to Andrea Constand for having the courage to testify and for shedding light on a crime that too often stays in the shadows, which is sexual assault and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault,” said Jane Manning, director of advocacy for the NOW chapter.

Another member of the chapter, Claire McCue, added, “I want to join the effort to show our appreciation for people who actually take a very brave stance and bring their case through the justice system to let them know that we appreciate it. We know what this is probably doing for them emotionally and we just want to let them know that there’s so many of us out there cheering them on.”

Visitors to the courthouse who had business to attend to seemed awed by the crush of media surrounding the main entrance to the courthouse.

“This is where the real show is, huh?” one man said as he strolled along Swede Street and took in the scene.

The most dramatic moment during the trial came when Constand entered the courtroom to tell her story and faced Cosby, whose legacy was on the line, for the first time since his arrest. The charges were lodged against Cosby on Dec. 30, 2015, before the 12-year statute of limitations to file charges expired.

During the trial, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele alleged Cosby was a trusted friend and mentor who took advantage of a woman in a “vulnerable state,” plied Constand with “three blue pills” and sexually assaulted her at his Cheltenham mansion in mid-January 2004. Constand, 44, of Ontario, Canada, testified over two days that after taking the blue pills she began slurring her words and became “frozen” or paralyzed and was unable to fight off Cosby’s sexual advances. Constand claimed Cosby placed her on a couch, touched her breasts, forced her to touch his penis and performed digital penetration all without her consent.

But defense lawyer Brian J. McMonagle argued Cosby was the victim of false accusations and that the entertainer and Constand had a “romantic relationship” and consensual sexual contact during the 2004 incident. At one point during the trial, McMonagle stood beside Cosby and suggested to jurors that while Cosby may have been an unfaithful husband, that didn’t make him a criminal.

The trial represented the first time Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, had been charged with a crime despite allegations from dozens of women who claimed they were assaulted by the entertainer.

Pointing to what he claimed were Constand’s inconsistent statements, McMonagle and co-defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusa argued Constand initially told detectives she had limited phone contact with Cosby after the alleged incident, however, phone records showed she had called him 53 times. McMonagle said that evidence suggested Constand was talking to a “lover.”

But Steele and co-prosecutors Kristen Feden and M. Stewart Ryan suggested Constand was calling Cosby, a university trustee, about university business and argued Cosby’s conduct wasn’t “romantic” but was “criminal.”

Testimony revealed Constand, who was 31 at the time of the incident, did not report the allegations to police until a year later, in January 2005. The investigation initially was undertaken by former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who in February 2005 determined there was insufficient and unreliable evidence to prosecute Cosby, who was 67 at the time.

Prosecutors reopened the investigation in July 2015 after Cosby’s deposition connected to a 2005 civil suit Constand filed against him was unsealed by a judge. In that deposition, Cosby, according to testimony, admitted he obtained Quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex in the 1970s. Prosecutors contend Cosby also admitted for the first time to developing a romantic interest in Constand when he saw her at a Temple basketball game and to having sexual contact with Constand.

Cosby also told investigators he gave Constand Benadryl on the night in question, “One whole and then one broke in half.”

While prosecutors did not specifically identify what they believed Cosby gave to Constand, with the evidence presented to the jury, they suggested it could have been Quaaludes or Benadryl. Testimony revealed Benadryl did come in a blue pill around that time.