While the jury has yet to begin deliberating in the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial, it’s become apparent that black Hollywood — and possibly black America — has already made up its mind.
From the preliminary hearings to jury selection and right up to trial, notably absent were those whom Cosby had been so generous to over the years and have directly and otherwise benefited from the icon, who opened doors and broke down barriers for a host of African-American comedians and entertainers.
Even the civil rights community, some of whom rallied in support of fallen stars O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, has abandoned Cosby.
“Marc Morial, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton. None of those guys…” said Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, his voice trailing off in near disbelief.
Attempts to reach those individuals for comment were unsuccessful.
Cosby, 79, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the sexual assault charges against him. He’s accused of drugging and assaulted former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.
While the charges are heinous, the evidence presented at trial so far appear to have shown nothing more than a “dirty old man,” a serial adulterer who carried on with a younger woman.
From her own testimony — at least the first 20 minutes or so on direct examination from prosecutors — Constand described what sounded like a classic courtship: numerous dinners and phone conversations; him expressing interest in her life; exchanging of gifts; enjoying cognac, lighting incense and sitting by a fire; and Cosby repeatedly making passes at her.
Ultimately, Constand alleged that Cosby plied her with pills — which she never questioned what they were and took without any pressure to help her relax — and fondled her breasts and private parts.
The talk of Quaaludes, which had dominated press coverage during the months leading up to the trial, finally emerged at the end of the prosecution’s case.
However, the pills given to Constand by Cosby appear to be Benadryl, according to testimony that’s been provided throughout the prosecution’s case, including Cosby’s statements to police.
Authorities forwarded to a crime lab the pills Cosby had voluntarily provided and confirmed that they were Benadryl. Still, prosecutors attempted to sway the jury into believing the pills were Quaaludes, calling an expert to try and make the connection.
Each day, Cosby has entered court with Wyatt, his attorneys, his tour manager and a small gathering of friends, some from Temple University. Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy on “The Cosby Show,” appeared on the first day while actress Sheila Frazier and comedian Joe Torry have also come to the Norristown courthouse.
Torry said he wanted to see for himself what was going on.
“At least I can say I came here and heard for myself and not let what I read in mainstream media or see on television tell me what’s going on,” Torry said. “I see what’s going on.
Others have not.
The trial has been devoid of those who have in some way benefitted from Cosby. Comedians and actors who came after him or worked directly with Cosby, such as Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Sinbad and the Wayans family, have been absent.
Former co-stars such as John Amos, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte also are missing.
Basketball coaches like John Chaney have not appeared or have seemingly failed to even reach out to the comedian, who has regularly used his fame and wealth to help others.
After his only son was murdered in 1997, Cosby started the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation to help provide money so that disadvantaged youths could go to school. He has supported the Children’s Miracle Network, Jackie Robinson Foundation, Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push, Jumpstart, Keep a Child Alive, Airlift Research Foundation, Bob Woodruff Foundation and many other charitable organizations.
Cosby also supported and enjoyed membership with the United Negro College Fund, NAACP, Operation PUSH and the Sickle Cell Foundation.
He’s earned eight Grammy awards for best comedy album; four Emmy awards; NAACP Image Award; Golden Globe Award; four People’s Choice awards; Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee, 1994; Kennedy Center Awards Honoree, 1998; People’s Choice Award for Favorite All-Time Television Star, 1999; People’s Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series, 1997; Image Award for Outstanding Performance in a Youth or Children’s Series/Special for: Little Bill, 2001; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2002; Bob Hope Humanitarian Emmy Award, 2003.
In 1998, Cosby was among five performers who were saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors in D.C. A ceremony was held at the Kennedy Center and was attended by President and Mrs. Clinton.
In her remarks, which were quoted in Jet, Phylicia Rashad praised her friend and television co-star.
“It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to put people down, but it takes Bill’s intelligence, his sensibility, and his grace to embrace the whole world with care and to uplift it with laughter,” she said.
In Norristown, the laughter has stopped. Cosby stands accused, tried and alone.
“He’s strong. He’s OK,” Wyatt said.