Opening arguments Monday during the first day of the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania had O.J. Simpson-style drama, with one of prosecutors pointing and jabbing at the comedian as she told jurors that the onetime TV legend was a rapist.
Kristen Feden, a Montgomery County assistant district attorney, said Cosby’s own words taken from police statements and deposition testimony — including his acknowledgment that he used quaaludes to have sex with women — would be powerful evidence against him.
Pointing to him — even walking over to the defense table only inches away from Cosby — Feden referred to Cosby as “this man” while describing his alleged actions with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, whom he gave pills to before engaging in sexual activity in 2004.
“These three friends will help you relax,” Feden quoted him as telling Constand of the pills.
She said Constand viewed Cosby as a trusted mentor and Feden repeated the words she hoped would resonate with jurors: “Trust, betrayal and the inability to consent.”
Feden also warned jurors not to be “distracted” by Cosby’s celebrity.
When the comedian’s lead attorney Brian McMonagle presented jurors with his opening statement, he noted that he once was a prosecutor and he’s glad to represent Cosby because he’s seen both sides and the “Let’s Do It Again” actor was innocent.
“They saw there was no evidence to bring a prosecution then,” he said of the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, which was ran by Bruce Caster at the time of the incident. “So why are we here?”
McMonagle hammered home points about Constand’s inconsistencies and the relationship she had with Cosby before and after the alleged incident.
Then, in what proved to be the first bombshell of the case, McMonagle cited telephone records that show 72 calls between Cosby and Constand after the alleged January 2004 incident. A staggering 53 of those calls came from Constand, not Cosby, he said.
“Yet she told police initially that she had not tried to contact him,” McMonagle said. “The conversations lasted 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or more.”
Prosecutors highlighted a phone call between Cosby and Constand’s mother, Gianna, who’s scheduled to testify, in which he apologized and offered to fly her to Florida and pay for some schooling.
Cosby’s attorney countered that the entertainer was indeed a philanderer but not a rapist.
“You see a comedian who made us smile, somebody may see a flawed husband whose infidelities made him vulnerable to these accusations,” McMonagle said. “Some of you will look over there and see a man and see someone who has seen greatness and someone who has suffered unendurable personal tragedy. I hope you will see just a citizen, just someone who is there.”
The first and only witness called on Day 1 was Kelly Johnson, former William and Morris Agency employee whose late boss worked for Cosby.
She said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her and went on to describe how Cosby wooed her and her parents, including her stepfather, a former Los Angeles Police detective.
Then, in a bungalow at a hotel in Beverly Hills, she said Cosby forced her to take a white pill after telling her she needed to relax.
She said she felt like she was underwater and woke up on his bed to find him behind her and making grunting sounds.
She had lotion on her hand and Cosby made her touch his penis, she said.
“My dress was pulled up from the bottom,” she said, “and it was pulled down from the top.”
However, in a dramatic cross-examination, McMonagle highlighted various inconsistencies with her statements, and for many of the defense questions, Johnson cited a lack of memory despite being asked similar questions by McMonagle that she answered for the prosecution.
After she was excused, prosecutors sought to call her mother to bolster Johnson’s testimony. The defense objected, leading to a hearing after the trial proceedings ended for the day.
Cosby is charged with three second-degree felony counts of aggravated indecent assault, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
“Cosby Show” co-star Keshia Knight Pulliam arrived with the comedian in what is expected to be a long line of celebrity guests in the courtroom, including comedians Faizon Love, Sinbad and Eddie Griffin, and much-anticipated appearances by “Cosby Show” wife Phylicia Rashad and the star’s real-life wife Camille and his daughters.
“Truth happens here,” Knight Pulliam said.