Cosby Retrial Starts With Topless Protester and Revelation He Paid $3M in Hush Money
Opening arguments by the prosecution weren’t the only fireworks on Monday.
NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—Bill Cosby paid Andrea Constand $3,380,000 to settle her lawsuit against him after he betrayed her trust by drugging and sexually assaulting her, prosecutors said in opening arguments as the criminal case against the entertainer got underway Monday afternoon.
It was the first time the amount has been revealed publicly. While Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele didn’t make any comment on the amount, in pre-trial hearings the prosecution suggested the high number proved Cosby was guilty. The defense, in turn, said the numer supports its argument that Constand falsely accused Cosby to get a huge payoff.
There was no mention of the civil suit in Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury last June, but a judge ruled it could be part of this one.
“When I talk about trust I talk about trust that was built over time,” Steele told the jury in his hour-long opening argument. “A trust that was built between the defendant and the relationship he built; that blind trust with the woman you will meet named Andrea Constand.
“In January of 2004 that trust was betrayed,” Steele said. “He used words to try to get her to take pills. Then he used words to try to encourage her to drink something. Because of that trust she did.
“And that leads to what happened,” he said. “It let to a woman being incapable of making a decision; incapable of consenting… and then, ladies and gentleman, the defendant sexually assaulted her.”
Cosby, 80, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Constand at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, mansion in January 2004. Cosby denies Constand’s allegations as well as similar ones from more than 60 women.
After prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against Cosby in February 2005, Constand filed a civil suit against him. He settled it with her in October 2006 with a confidentiality agreement.
Steele was methodical as he went through every element of the case he had to prove, and at times his voice rose, but his performance disappointed at least one of the other alleged Cosby victims who are in town to watch the trial.
“I felt that he should be telling the story and endearing the jury to Andrea Constand and himself, and I didn’t feel he accomplished that,” Victoria Valentino told The Daily Beast.
The retrial got off to a bumpy start Monday morning—first with the arrest of a topless protester who lunged at him outside the courthouse and then a five-hour delay while the judge sorted out a dispute over a juror. She was later identified as Nicholle Rochelle, 39, of Little Falls, New Jersey, who appeared on several episodes of The Cosby Show as a child. Rochelle, who jumped a barricade and got within a few feet of Cosby, was charged with disorderly conduct. The uproar had Cosby’s spokesperson calling for better security at the courthouse.
On Friday, Cosby’s seven-member defense team filed a motion asking for Juror No. 11 to be removed after a potential juror reported she heard him say he thought Cosby was guilty during jury selection proceedings.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill held a meeting behind closed doors with the prosecution and the defense to hear from both jurors. He returned five hours later to swear in the jury, which still included the juror in question. O’Neill did not say what had happened during the interim.
Aside from the topless protester, Cosby’s arrival was low-key. Last year on the first day of trial, he was escorted in by Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on The Cosby Show. This time he was only accompanied by his spokesman Andrew Wyatt and another spokeswoman.