Bill Cosby’s Canadian accuser stands tall at his trial

Andrea Constand, a Toronto-based massage therapist, presented a Zen-like calm as she testified over the course of three hours.

Andrea Constand, walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Pool)

Andrea Constand, walks to the courtroom during Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, Pool)

Andrea Constand, principle witness in the proceeding Judge Steven O’Neill today dubbed “the biggest sexual assault case ever,” took the stand midday on Tuesday — to the shock of the gallery. Announcement of her name was met with gasps. Even O’Neill was surprised, he told the prosecution team with chagrin: he’d not been told she was on the day’s witness list.

With her Mogdigliani face surrounded by a nimbus of dark corkscrew curls, the Toronto-based massage therapist presented a Zen-like calm as she testified over the course of three hours. Female lawyers conducted the examination: the direct by assistant district attorney Kristen Feden, the cross-examination by defense lawyer Angela C. Agrusu. That grilling remains unfinished. It will commence first thing Wednesday.

Throughout, Constand, attired in grey jacket, white t-shirt and cream pants, appeared composed, sincere and confident. Her  voice was firm, wavering only when discussing the reported assault dating to 2004 that lies at the core of this case. At times, she addressed the jury directly.

The former basketball player chronicled her relationship with Cosby, whom she met in the fall of 2002 when she was working as the director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University. That is Cosby’s alma mater; he was then on its boards of trustees (he would resign in 2014 amid ever-expanding sexual assault charges against him) and campus grandee. A university benefactor introduced them. Cosby expressed interest in fixtures and carpeting in the team’s change rooms. Constand toured him through.

Their first conversations focused on Temple and basketball; Constand, now 44,  spoke with him on her Temple-issued cellphone. In time, Cosby asked for her personal cell number. When asked if she thought Cosby, 35 years her senior, had romantic interest, Constand waved it off. “No,”she said.

Yet she also reported repeated unbidden touching. In the first instance, she testified, Cosby invited her to his home in the Philadelpia suburb of Elkins Pakr for dinner, explaining that his chef would call for her requests. At the end of the night, she said, Cosby put his hand on her thigh. She moved away, and he removed his hand. “It was first time he touched me,” she told the court. “I think it was just affectionate — though suggestive,” she laughed ruefully.

There would be dinners with others at his house to which Constand was invited. She always left with the group, she testified.  Then, at the end of another private dinner, she said, Cosby sat close her and commented on her pants. “He touched the side of my waist and took his hand and attempted to unbuckle my buckle and I felt his hand at the top of my zipper. I learned forward and he took his hand away.”

She was clear, she said: “I said, ‘I’m not here for that. I don’t want that’.” She didn’t remember Cosby’s response, she said. “I said, ‘It was getting late and it was time to go.” Asked by Feden why she had subsequent contact with Cosby, she said she “trusted him,” adding, “I wasn’t scared of someone making an advance on me.”

The prosecution walked her through a trip she took to Foxwoods Resorts Casino, in Connecticut, where Cosby was performing in 2003. In opening arguments, the defence referred to Constand “following” Cosby there, as well as the two of them lying in bed together. Constand presented it as another uncomfortable scene. Cosby invited her to see him perform but she was more interested in seeing the Indigenous reserve it is situated on, she said. She had dinner with Cosby and the resorts  general manager in Cosby’s room. She said they both left. Then Cosby called to invite her up for “baked goods.” He ushered her in, and started unpacking something off a cart. “I didn’t know what was going on with baked goods,” she said; she sat at the foot of bed because there was no where else to sit. She said Cosby came to the side of bed and plopped himself down and closed his eyes. His knee brushed up against her leg. She wondered if something was wrong. “I was there for 10 minutes,” she said. She finally said she was leaving, she testified. Cosby walked her to the door and she kissed him goodbye on the cheek.

Constand described Cosby as “a Temple friend, somebody I trusted, a mentor and somewhat of an older figure to me.” He helped with her interest in getting into sports broadcasting. She’d travel to New York City by train to meet for dinner with Cosby and a friend whom he thought could help her with the possible career switch. Cosby reinbursed her. “He offered, I never asked him for help,” she said. He also introduced her to an agent at William Morris who discussed the Summer 2004 Olympics, a conversation that didn’t go anywhere.

Constand testified she was under stress over a career change when she went to Cosby’s house in January 2004. She was considering becoming a massage therapist and returning to Canada. Cosby said he had something to help her relax, opening his hand to reveal three blue pills, Constand testified. She asked if they were herbal. He nodded, she said. “He said ‘They’re your friend, they’ll do the job’.”

He insisted she have some wine, which she declined because she had an empty stomach. He told her “Just taste it, it’s an old bottle,” Constand said, so she had a sip. The two talked for a few minutes before she began feeing strange, she said. “My mouth was cottony. I said ‘I see two of you’ and I’m slurring.” When she stood up her legs were weak, she testified, and Cosby assisted her to a couch. “I thought I was having a bad reaction,” Constand said. “I was panicking a little bit but I knew I couldn’t get up and go anywhere.”

She testified Cosby laid her on her left side and placed a pillow under neck. She had no recollection of time until she was “jolted conscious.” “I felt Mr. Cosby’s hands groping my breasts, under my shirt,” she said. “I felt his hand inside my vagina, moving it in and out And I felt him take my hand, place it on on his penis and move it back and forth.”

“Did you tell him to stop?,” Feddens asked her.

“I wasn’t able to,” Constand answered.

“Did you push him away?,” the prosecution asked.

“No,” Constand said. ” I wasn’t able to. I was trying to get my hands to move, my legs to move I was frozen. I wasn’t able to fight him.” She paused. “I wanted it to stop,” she said, her voice breaking. She recalled her next memory: “Putting my two feet on the ground and feeling my brassiere around my neck.”

She looked at her watch she saw it was between 4 and 5 a.m. She walked into kitchen and Cosby was standing there. She said nothing to him, she testified. “I was very confused and disoriented. He was standing in kitchen door.” Cosby told her there was a muffin and tea. Constand said she took two sips of the tea, put the muffin top in a napkin and drove herself home.  “I felt humiliated and I was confused. I just wanted to go home,” she said.

She went out to dinner with him and a group shortly after, in order to try to get him to tell her what he gave her. She told him she wanted to talk and he invited her to his house. She went around 9:30 p.m. She said she told Cosby: “I wanted to ask you something: ‘What did you give me last time?’” She said he asked: “I thought you had an orgasm, didn’t you?” Constand says she told him: “ I did not. I did not.” She left shortly after.

She continued to speak with Cosby on the phone. Constant said felt she had no choice: “He was trustee, an alumni and supported many athletic programs. I only had a month left of employment. I did not want to stir up any trouble for it to look negative that I did not speak to trustee or person helping university. I was on my way home.”

Even when she returned to her parents’ home in Pickering, Ont., the phone calls continued, totalling 72 after the alleged assault, according to the defense. She’d also see Cosby again. In August 2004, they were talking on the  telephone and Cosby asked if her family would like to see him perform at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont. “My father had been mentioning the show,” she said. He left them four tickets. She said the assault weighed on her: “It was a very big burden but one I did not have courage to tell my family. So I just went along with it.” Her mother brought Cosby a souvenir t-shirt, from Roots Canada to thank him,” Constand said.

“How did that make you feel,” Feddens asked.

“Terrible,” Constand answered.

In January 2005, after experiencing nightmares, she described what she’d experienced to her mother who called Durham Police which came to her house the same night. One of the officers, David Mason, a detective with the force testified in court on Tuesday morning. In that first report, Constand said she’d knew Cosby for six months before the alleged assault, that they’d never been alone together and that it  occurred after they’d been out with a group of people and she returned to his house.

She and her mother later spoke to Cosby on the phone. Constand says she told him everything she remembered about that evening. ” There was a bit of silence,” she said. “He agreed with everything I told him, and, if I’m not mistaken he said, with my mother on the phone, that he thought I had an orgasm.”

Cosby  apologized to her and her mother. He said he would write the name of the pill he gave her on a piece of paper and mail it. She never got it.

The court heard recordings of Cosby’s people reaching out to the Constands — a rep at William Morris tried to fly Andrea and her mother for a meeting with Cosby in Miami, which didn’t happen. Cosby’s longtime lawyer, Marty Singer, called to propose “an education trust, an educational fund, for Andrea.”

Bill Cosby walks from the Montgomery County Courthouse during his sexual assault trial, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Bill Cosby walks from the Montgomery County Courthouse during his sexual assault trial, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Constand remained unrattled Tuesday afternoon under cross-examination. It focused on her repeated contact with Cosby after January 2004 and also inconsistencies in police reports she had given. In one instance, she had told Canadian police the assault occurred after being out to dinner with Cosby and a group of people.  Agrusu accused her of not telling the truth. Constand admitted “I was mistaken. It was not a group dinner.” She said she was nervous and confused giving the statement: I had a lot running through mind,” she said.  “I wasn’t able to recall every moment.”

Agrusu challenged her on saying she’d never been alone with Cosby in the first report, mentioning the night at Foxwood Casino: “When you laid alone in a bed with him, you were alone?” she asked. Constand remained calm: “To answer the second part of the question, the answer is yes,” she answered. “I think I stated on the record there was a lot of confusion.”

She also faced fire for researching civil lawyers who specialized in sexual assault cases same time she was reporting to the Durham, Ont. police and then the police in Montgomery County, Pa. The defence presented a phone record showing Constand’s calls to lawyers in Pennsylvania. The implication here, of course, is that money is her primary motive.  (Constand settled  a civil case against Cosby for an undisclosed sum in 2006).

When questioned by the prosecution, Constand said going up against Cosby scared her at the time: “I wanted guidance and I wanted to protect myself. I felt if I went to police, Mr. Cosby wold retaliate and try to hurt me — hurt me and my family some way.” She denied she spoke to an attorney before she spoke to police.

“I was not familiar with who I needed to call,” Constand told the defence. “I reached out for guidance or advice.” Some of that advice came from her brother-in-law, Stuart Parsons, a veteran detective constable with the  Toronto police department. Parsons, testified just before Constand, outlining how he advised her about reporting to police and finding a lawyer in Pennsylvania.

When asked by the defence whether her friendship with Cosby wasn’t in part driven by her ambition to switch careers to broadcasting, Constand was candid. “Not completely,” she said. “The focus was on Temple. Part of what you are saying is correct.”

The defence fell flat with its attempts to conflate the episodes of unconsensual touching Constand reported with sexual activity: “But you have been alone,” Agrusu said. “You had two evenings of sexual contact with Mr Cosby prior to the night in question,”referring to the nights in which Constand said Cosby made unwelcome advances.  Constand, who referred to Agrusu throughout as ma’am, disagreed politely. “It’s not what I would consider sexual contact,” she said. “I considered it suggestive.” By that point Judge O’Neill spoke up to end the line of inquiry: “You say sexual contact,” he told Agrusu. “Her answer said suggestive contact.” It was a small, positive omen for the prosecution. The cross examination of Constand continues Wednesday.

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