Bill Cosby‘s Canadian accuser, Andrea Constand, is the only one of the many accusers of the former comedy superstar, for whom the statute of limitations was not a barrier to justice in the United States.
Now through a series of twists and turns, Cosby at 80, is facing a retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on the criminal charge of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand.
The catalyst was a punch line
Defence lawyers tried to argue that Constand was not credible but Judge Steven O’Neill ruled on Monday, that it was up to a jury to determine that.
The first trial ended in June in a mistrial as the jury could not decide unanimously.
Cosby then hired a new team of lawyers, which includes Tom Mesereau, the attorney who won the acquittal in the child molestation case against Michael Jackson.
The assault is alleged to have taken place in January of 2004.
Constand, a former basketball star in her native Toronto, originally moved to the University of Arizona, in the United States, on a basket ball scholarship.
She went on to represent Canada at the 1997 World University Games in Sicily, and played professionally in Italy for 18 months.
Eventually she became the director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater.
That’s where Constand met Bill Cosby who, a former basketball star himself, was on the university’s board of directors.
They began to move in similar circles within the university and the city of Philadelphia, and became friends. She considered him a mentor.
It was in reply to his invitation to “discuss her career” that she went to visit him at his home.
Speaking of the stress of her current job, Cosby allegedly offered her some pills to help her relax. And that’s where the story resonates with the accounts of other women, who subsequently shared their own experiences, after Andrea Constand first went public with her ordeal.
Constand remembers getting drowsy, and feeling “dizzy” and Cosby allegedly helping her to lie down on a couch.
Then she remembers waking up around 4 am, realising her clothes and underwear were “in disarray”.
Three months later she left Temple, moved back to Toronto to live with her parents, and began a new career as a massage therapist.
That summer when Cosby was performing near Toronto, Constand took her parents to see the show and introduce them to him.
Following the encounter her parents claim she began to have nightmares and withdrew socially.
She eventually confided in them telling them about what had allegedly happened to her in Cosby’s home.
They immediately went to the Toronto police to report the assault.
At the time, it was decreed in Philadelphia that charges couldn’t be laid for a lack of “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”
Cosby denied the charges claiming Constand consented. His lawyer called the charges “preposterous”.
“contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations”
Constand’s parents stood by their daughter and in 2006, a civil suit was settled out of court.
She had remained silent on the matter, other than filing several defamation suits against people and publications assaulting her character and motives.
In the meantime, other women began to speak.
In the ensuing ten years, more than 50 women, some of them now grandmothers telling their story for the first time, shared experiences that were almost identical. all drugged and assaulted.
But it was not Constand that initiated this criminal process.
The catalyst was a punch line.
Cosby was touring, addressing crowds of black men, advising them to clean up their acts, take care of their women and children and admonishing young black men, for their attire, the baggy pants that hung off them, part of the rapper and hip-hop culture.
It twigged something in Buress and in stand up routine in October 2014 he fired back, “Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby.”
The clip went viral and the public began to take notice.
Eventually his agency abandoned him, shows and projects were cancelled, honorary degrees withdrawn and he had to step down from the board of Temple University.
His career is in tatters and his authority a joke.
It was federal judge Eduardo Robreno in July 2015 who said, “The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct, is a matter to which the (Associated Press), and by extension the public, has a significant interest.”
His ruling opened the transcripts of Andrea Constand’s civil suit.
During that case Cosby had admitted to buying Quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex with, and paying off accusers.
In Anne Kingston’s MacLean’s article in January 2016, she writes:
“He gave Constand one-and-a-half tablets of the antihistamine Benadryl, enough to put her to sleep “right away,” then had sexual contact knowing she wouldn’t be fully conscious. He interpreted her silence as consent, he said, boasting: “I think I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them.”
The revelations prompted the Montgomery County district attorney, Risa Vetri Ferman to reopen the investigation and changed the charge from a misdemeanour with a two-year statute of limitations to aggravated sexual assault with a 12-year limitation that would expire in January 2016.
Investigators soon arrived in Toronto to hear from Constand.
Jury selection for the retrial is set to begin on March 29, 2018.
Andrea Constand will have to testify again.
Cosby could face up to 10 years in jail, if found guilty.
(With files from CBC, and MacLean’s)