PITTSBURGH — The sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby is set to begin Monday in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, after three days of jury selection in Pittsburgh that produced a panel of seven white men, three white women, a black man and a black woman.
An alternate panel of six features four white men, a black man and a black woman.
While the jury selection process had its share of high drama and even some comedic moments that also caused the famous comedian to break out in laughter, it appeared that everyone took time outside of the proceedings to enjoy the Steel City.
Judge Steven O’Neill, who will preside over the trial, jogged and exercised around town while several of the attorneys dined and enjoy beverages at a restaurant and bar at the Omni Hotel where the judge, members of the defense team and prosecutors all choose to spend the week.
Cosby didn’t stay in Pittsburgh, instead the comedian flew on a private jet back and forth each day from his Philadelphia home — an aide to the star said Cosby didn’t want undue attention by staying at a local hotel.
However, on the ride to and from the airport each morning, a gaggle of fans would greet Cosby, many stopping his SUV at traffic lights to get at least a glimpse of the comedian.
Fans young and older weren’t disappointed as he rolled down the tinted windows, shook hands and allowed several to take selfies with him.
“We love you, Mr. Cosby,” several of the fans said to which the comedian thanked them for their support.
“I remember performing here at Heinz Theater,” Cosby said.
The star has been charged with three counts of criminal sex assault with allegations that include drugging and molesting former Temple University student Andrea Constand, who along with both her parents are expected to testify at court.
While much has been made of the dozens of women who have publicly claimed Cosby assaulted them, not a whole lot has been said about the specific charges and the circumstance of the upcoming trial and what the jury will hear.
They will not hear the testimony of the multiple women, some of whom have had civil suits they’ve bought against Cosby tossed out. Just one of those women will testify.
Also, Cosby will not call celebrities like former “Cosby Show” co-star Phylicia Rashad or Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier, who starred with the comedian in the hit movies “Let’s Do it Again,” and “Uptown Saturday Night,” to testify as character witnesses in part because it would open the door for prosecutors to introduce unproven allegations by other women against Cosby.
Some of the names that will be mentioned in court are attorney Gloria Allred, who represents many of the alleged victims, and actress Diahann Carroll although it’s unclear why the Golden Globe-winning star would testify or be mentioned.
Based on court documents and the previous pretrial hearings, jurors will hear that Constand aspired to become a sports broadcaster and sought Cosby’s assistance.
The star began to mentor Constand and at some point the relationship turned physical, with Cosby allegedly touching the woman in a sexual manner.
Later, Cosby invited Constand to his home near Philadelphia and when she complained of not feeling well the comedian gave her some pills that he said were Benadryl and prosecutors allege were Quaaludes. While semiconscious, Constand said Cosby sexually assaulted her.
Jurors will also hear that after the incident, Constand continued to reach out to Cosby and even insisted that he meet her mother.
About one year later, Constand pressed charges against Cosby but then-District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to prosecute, citing a case that was not provable.
Cosby and Constand then settled a civil suit and roughly 10 years later, the new district attorney, Richard Steele, decided to bring charges against the star just prior to the statute of limitations expiring.
If the outcome trial boils down to a he-said-she-said affair, the famed comedian may have a chance of walking away a free man if one dismissed juror’s take permeates the seated panel that’s made up of predominantly white men.
After a selection process that featured nearly 200 people being interviewed, one potential panelist who didn’t make the cut probably provided the most interesting take on the upcoming trial.
O’Neill asked jurors whether they had previously heard anything about the case and whether it would influence their decision.
“I heard about a bunch of women and I thought a bunch of women can’t all be saying that [if it weren’t true],” said the man, who is white and his 50s. Speaking to the judge, he said, “Then you told us here that it was just one woman that this case was about so now I’m on the fence, just one woman. It’s kind of his word against her word,” he said.
Another dismissed juror brought near-hysterical laughter to the most serious affair when he spoke of the hardship he faced if selected to be among those who would be bused 300 miles from Pittsburgh and having to stay in a hotel for up to three weeks.
The man, an older white male in his 70s, said he had ulcerative colitis.
O’Neill asked him to describe the condition.
“If I deviate from my home diet, usually in about an hour or two, I’m in a place where I need to use the facilities right now,” the man said to laughter by attorneys, the media and Cosby.
The man wasn’t finished as he mentioned his wife and the length of time they’ve been married.
“I always tell everyone, I’ve only been married a short time — 45 years. People have gotten out of jail sooner than that,” he said, again evoking an outburst of laughter from the courtroom.
The trial is expected to last two weeks. If convicted, Cosby could face 10 years in prison.