Both the defense and the prosecution in Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial are trying to use a $3.4 million settlement to their advantage — a payment that the jurors in last year's mistrial didn’t even hear about.
Cosby's retrial began on Monday after his first trial ended in a deadlocked jury last year. The 80-year-old entertainer, best known as the father in “The Cosby Show,” is now facing the same charges he did during his mistrial: drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his home over a decade ago. But there’s a key difference: Attorneys on both sides can now talk about the $3.4 million settlement Cosby paid Constand back in 2006 as part of a civil lawsuit.
The prosecution also has a witness to testify that Constand lied about the assault just for the money, while the defense has four additional women who say Cosby sexually assaulted them, too.
The settlement has been public information since at least 2016, when Cosby sued Constand and demanded that she pay him back for violating their confidentiality agreement when she cooperated with police. At the first trial, neither side was allowed to talk about the settlement at all — the only part of the civil suit allowed last time around was Cosby’s deposition testimony in which he admitted that he gave Quaaludes to women to induce consensual sex. The judge hasn’t ruled whether that will be admitted during the retrial.
Cosby, however, has now lifted his objections about the settlement, which allows the full value as evidence during the case. In opening statements on Monday, the prosecution used the payment as an admission of guilt; why would Cosby pay off Constand if the sex was consensual?
The next day, however, the defense laid out its plans to use the payment to show that Constand is greedy and untrustworthy. Cosby’s new defense lawyers — most notably Tom Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation case — called Constand a “con artist” and “so-called victim,” who got close to Cosby because she wanted his money.
“She was madly in love with his fame and money,” Mesereau said Tuesday, according to Reuters. “She’s now a multimillionaire because she pulled it off.”
Judge O’Neill has also ruled to allow testimony from one of Constand’s friends, who claims she made up whole assault up to get money from Cosby. The first trial’s judge didn’t allow her to testify because Constand said she didn’t know her. This time, though, she’ll be taking the stand.
Judge O’Neill is also allowing prosecutors to call witnesses previously blocked from the mistrial, including five more women who have accused Cosby of sex assault. At his last trial, just one other woman testified.
The prosecutors plan to use these women to show that Cosby was a serial predator. Since there’s little to no forensic evidence of the alleged crime, the prosecution’s case relies heavily on Constand, her testimony, and the testimony of the other women.
Cosby is facing three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and if convicted, he would face up to 10 years in prison for each count.
Cover image: Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., on April 10, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)