NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Defense lawyers for comedian Bill Cosby on Tuesday attacked the credibility of women who testified against him at his sexual assault trial, drawing a stern rebuke from prosecutors who said such shaming of victims was the reason women do not report sex crimes.
Cosby, the once-beloved comedian and TV dad, is on trial on three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, 45, at his home outside Philadelphia in January 2004.
Lawyers for each side made their closing arguments on Tuesday at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau picked apart what he called inconsistent statements by Constand, labeling her “a pathological liar” and reminding the jury she continued to call Cosby after the alleged assault. He declared Cosby “must be acquitted on all counts.”
Co-counsel Kathleen Bliss then assailed the five other witnesses who said they, like Constand, had been drugged and violated by Cosby, saying it was unfair to Cosby that they were “digging up stuff from three decades ago.”
She said Cosby’s accusers were fabricating stories in search of money and fame that would come with leveling such allegations against Cosby, a comedian known for clean material and whose television career was based on a wholesome image.
“What is this case about? Money, press conferences, TV shows, salacious coverage, ratings. Sex sells,” Bliss said.
When the prosecution got its turn, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden turned her attention not just to Cosby but also to Bliss, calling the defense lawyer’s attack on the accusers “shameful, utterly shameful.”
“She (Bliss) is the exact reason women and men don’t report these crimes. Victims of sexual assault are part of society, too. They have families; they are human beings,” Feden said.
In all, some 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault going back decades, though only Constand’s case was recent enough for criminal prosecution.
This is his second trial, after a deadlocked jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict last year, just before a flood of sexual assault and harassment accusations against rich and powerful men gave rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
As in the first trial, Cosby declined to testify on his own behalf. He has denied wrongdoing, saying any sexual contact he had was consensual.
His wife of more than 50 years, Camille Cosby, arrived in court on Tuesday for the first time since the trial began on April 9.
Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman