Mistrial declared in Bill Cosby sex-assault trial – Washington Post

 In Entertainment
A Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial Saturday after a jury was deadlocked on sexual-assault charges against Bill Cosby, the comic legend whose legacy as a promoter of wholesome values has been tarnished by a years-long sex and drugging scandal. As the mistrial was declared, Cosby sat at the defense table with his chin held high, a flat, blank look on his face. Across the well of the courtroom, jurors stood one-by-one in the jury box and said, “Yes,” as Judge Steven T. O’Neill asked each whether they agreed that the jury is “hopelessly deadlocked.” The jurors answered without hesitation, but several slumped forward in their chairs, elbows on their knees and fingers knit, looks of frustration on their faces.

After the questioning was done, the entertainer sat back in his chair, holding to his chest a slender cane that has been with him inside the courtroom each day. The jury filed out almost within arm’s reach of Andrea Constand, Cosby’s accuser. She stood respectfully, with a strained smile on her face. Afterward, the prosecutor, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, announced in court that he will retry Cosby. Constand has already told him she is willing to testify again at a retrial. In the next 120 days, O’Neill will schedule a new trial to be held sometime in the next 12 months.

The courtroom emptied quickly, but the two main players in this 11-day melodrama lingered. Constand, in the brilliantly white, lightweight blazer she had worn on the witness stand, stood along the edge of the courtroom wall. Six accusers who had attended the trial as spectators, some with tears in their eyes, lined up to console her with long, sad hugs. The former professional basketball player’s face was flush, but her eyes were dry.

Across the courtroom, a small entourage of Cosby aides broke into wide smiles and clapped each other on the back. Amid the celebration, the 79-year-old comic sat by himself at his regular spot at the defense table. No one from his family was there to share the moment, and the members of his defense team and support staff had turned their attention elsewhere.

Cosby, knowing that he will be tried again, looked pensive as he sat tilted forward with his legs spread wide and his eyes cast to the floor. He draped a long finger across his upper lip, and for several minutes was alone with his thoughts. Then, his expression changed. For a split second, a smile crossed his face.

Finally, one of his lawyers, Angela Agrusa, spied him sitting there alone, and went over to offer her arm. They walked down the center aisle of the courtroom together, weaving through journalists and celebratory Cosby aides. But the path was blocked and they had to stop.

Cosby and his lawyer paused momentarily.

“You lead the way,” Cosby said to Agrusa.

Outside the courthouse, Cosby’s press spokesman thrust a fist in the air triumphantly as the comedian made his way down a ramp flanked by metal barricades and a leafy hedge in the rain. A handful of supporters chanted “Let Bill go” as Cosby was helped into an idling, black SUV. Cosby turned for a moment to a crowd in which journalists outnumbered supporters at least 25 to 1. Then he was gone.

A member of Cosby’s PR team also read a scathing statement from the comedian’s wife, Camille, in which she called Steele “heinously and exploitatively ambitious” and the lawyers for Cosby’s accusers “unethical.” She also dismissed O’Neill as “overtly arrogant” and unspecified members of the media as “blatantly vicious.”

The jurors, who had complained of exhaustion, deliberated 52 hours before finally saying that they could not reach a verdict on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the entertainer. But the hung jury does not end Cosby’s legal troubles. He will be retried and is still facing lawsuits filed by some of the 60 women who have accused him of sexual assault, rape or sexual harassment.

As deliberations dragged on, signs of discontent in the jury room kept emerging. The jurors — who had been kept working for 12- and 13-hour days by O’Neill, the Montgomery County judge overseeing the case, since beginning their cloistered discussions Monday afternoon — asked to go back to the hotel early Tuesday. The next day, they expressed “concerns” to court officials, though the judge did not reveal the substance of their complaints.

Defense attorneys furiously demanded a mistrial many times in the courtroom during the lengthy deliberations, but O’Neill insisted on letting the jury continue its work. Cosby’s press team angered the judge by holding impromptu news conferences on the courthouse steps, fulminating for a mistrial and criticizing the judge for allowing deliberations to stretch longer than anyone could remember in previous cases held in this scruffy Philadelphia suburb.

Late Thursday morning, just after passing the 30-hour mark in deliberations, jurors formally announced for the first time that they were deadlocked — in a one-sentence note saying they could not reach a “unanimous consensus” on any of the counts. The judge gave the standard order to keep trying, but they were ultimately unable to break the deadlock. When he first heard about the deadlock, Cosby walked out of the courtroom with a smile on his face.

The jurors gave few hints as to their leanings. But a few, including an elderly man who entered court each day leaning on a cane, showed their fatigue by occasionally nodding off in the jury box. The jury seemed to take an unusually painstaking approach to deliberations, asking to rehear testimony from half of the prosecution witnesses and to look anew at evidence. The requests amounted to something akin to replaying the entire trial. And, by the end, jurors had deliberated for far more hours than the length of testimony, opening statements and closing arguments combined.

The conclusion of the trial, to an extent, softens one of the most thundering falls from grace by a popular-culture figure in recent American history. Still, testimony in the case further sullied Cosby’s image as “America’s Dad,” with jurors hearing of his frequent infidelities.

His accuser, Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball staffer, testified that Cosby sexually assaulted her in 2004, manipulating her into taking pills that left her “frozen” and unable to stop him from touching her breasts and genitals during an evening at his suburban Philadelphia estate. At the time, Cosby sat on the Philadelphia university’s board of trustees and frequently served as its public face.

Gianna Constand, the accuser’s mother, testified that the entertainer confessed to her that he was a “sick man.” But defense attorneys exploited numerous inconsistencies in Andrea Constand’s statements to police, cementing an impression that she was “a false accuser” who consented to sexual contact with an older man who showered her with gifts such as cashmere sweaters and concert tickets.

Cosby’s charismatic lead attorney, Brian McMonagle, acknowledged that the comedian was an “unfaithful” husband, but said he is also “a brilliant comedian, who not only taught us how to smile but how to love each other no matter what we look like.”

The defendant, legally blind and palming the handle of his cane, entered the courthouse each day clasping the arm of his publicist. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the courtroom were several of the 60 women who have accused him of sexual assault since the scandal broke in late 2014.

During the six days of testimony here, court security officers sometimes whispered the name “Dr. Huxtable” after Cosby passed, referencing his career-defining role on “The Cosby Show,” a program about an upper-middle-class African American family.

But the jury of seven men and five women, which included two African Americans, was introduced to a much more manipulative and scheming character. The panel, most of whom appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, and several of whom had family members who knew people who had been sex crime victims — including a schoolteacher who has had students who were sex crime victims — learned that Cosby sought to calm Constand’s mother by offering to pay for her daughter to attend graduate school. She did not accept the offer. All Gianna Constand wanted, she said, was an apology — and she testified that she got one from Cosby on the phone. In a deposition read to jurors — Cosby gave it after his accuser sued him in 2005 — Cosby worried that the mother thought of him as “a dirty old man.”

Cosby, who accrued one America’s largest entertainment fortunes with his television programs, books and G-rated comic routine about family life, was challenged in court by two sets of mothers and daughters.

Jurors also heard the searing testimony of prosecution witness Kelly Johnson, who sobbingly told them that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s; and her mother, Pattrice Sewell, a poised retired educator. Johnson, who met Cosby while working as an assistant to his agent, testified that Cosby had her fired after the alleged assault.

Johnson provided some of the most emotional testimony of the trial. She sobbed loudly as she described how Cosby coerced her to take a pill that made her vision so blurry she could not read the labels on a large array of prescription medicine bottles in the bathroom of the entertainer’s bungalow at the luxe Hotel Bel-Air. She was the lone previous accuser allowed to testify in the trial as prosecutors sought to establish a pattern of behavior.

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