Bill Cosby trial: Defense attorney calls assault claim a lie during closing argument

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Bill Cosby arrived for the second week of his sexual assault trial accompanied by his wife Camille. It’s her first appearance at his trial. (Reuters)

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — He blamed it on lies. He blamed it on greed. He blamed it on the media.

For two hours on Monday, Bill Cosby’s attorney — flipping between stage-whispered intimacy and ear-splitting verbal explosions — ran through a long list of possible culprits he said are responsible for landing his client at the center of one of the most high-profile criminal cases in recent American history.

“This ain’t right!” bellowed Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle in his closing argument. Earlier in the day, he had raced through a startlingly brief, six-minute defense, bringing to a close testimony in the sexual-assault case against the 79-year-old comedian.

McMonagle apologized at one point for his “Irish-Italian” temper during his pyrotechnic closing argument. He had the difficult task of stemming the momentum built by prosecutors during an intense week of testimony that included an emotional appearance by Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball staffer who says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004. Constand has said that Cosby took advantage of his role as her mentor and slipped her pills that left her “frozen” and unable to stop him from touching her breasts and genitals.

McMonagle, a prominent Philadelphia defense attorney, accused Constand of telling “a stone-cold lie.”

McMonagle was intent on persuading the seven-man, five-woman jury that Constand was a “lover” of the comedian — not a victim.

“It’s a relationship,” he said.

At the defense table, Cosby sat for long stretches tilted forward in a reclining leather chair, and squinting. A few steps behind, the 79-year-old comic legend’s wife, Camille Cosby, watched from the front row of the audience. When McMonagle urged jurors to view the sexual encounter between her husband and Constant as part of a year-long romance, Camille Cosby sat with her head held high, a slight smile on her face.

In cross-examinations during the week-long prosecution case, Cosby defense attorneys repeatedly drew the attention of jurors to inconsistencies in Constand’s statements to police investigators. On Monday, though, McMonagle widened his premise, arguing that Cosby is being tried criminally because of a “drumbeat” of allegations by other women who were eager to appear on television and at news conferences. Television shows, such as “Dr. Phil,” and networks, such as CNN, gave the women a forum, he said.

As he spoke, he turned with a dramatic flair to the audience, where two of Cosby’s previous accusers — Victoria Valentino and Linda Kirkpatrick — sat in the last of eight jammed rows of padded wooden benches.

“You know why we’re here,” MccMonagle said scornfully. “Let’s be real.”

Then he began pounding the defense table, sending the thunderclap sound of his palms on the wooden surface ricocheting off the white, columned courtroom walls.

Constand filed a cvil lawsuit that was settled in 2006 after Montgomery County, Pa., prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Cosby. McMonagle, looking to raise doubts about her motives, reminded jurors that she contacted a lawyer who specializes in sexual assault lawsuits around the time she reported the alleged assault to police. The implication is that she was after money from Cosby, one of America’s wealthier entertainers.

Rather than focus on the sexual assault allegations, McMonagle tried to present jurors with a broader sense of Cosby as a flawed man, an “unfaithful” husband, but also a brilliant comedian, “who not only taught us how to smile but how to love each other no matter what we look like.”

McMonagle’s arguments will be followed Monday afternoon by closing arguments from prosecutors and instructions to the jury, which will decide whether Cosby is guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Earlier in the day, McMonagle had raced through the final phase of testimony. With Cosby and his wife of 50 years — who made her first appearance at the courthouse Monday — watching, the defense attorney called only one witness: a police detective to confirm the existence of a police report.

The brevity of the defense case contrasted with the presentation by prosecutors, who called 12 witnesses over five days of often emotional testimony. At the end of last week, a spokesman for Cosby hinted the star might testify. Legal experts and courtroom observers generally dismissed that suggestion as a bluff, perhaps designed to throw prosecutors off balance.

Camille Cosby was in the courthouse after a week of conspicuous absence. She slipped into the courtroom while the judge was addressing the audience and the attorneys, and many in the audience had their heads turned.

She walked slowly through a swing gate and into the well of the courtroom, rather than entering the seating area via a side aisle. Dressed in a gray-and-white sweater and skirt, she had a rigid smile fixed on her face.

By allowing Cosby’s wife to enter the courtroom in the middle of proceedings while the judge was speaking, officials extended her an extraordinary and unprecedented courtesy that had not been afforded to others in the crowded courtroom. Members of the audience, including some of Cosby’s other accusers who are not testifying, have not even been allowed to leave the courtroom in the midst of proceedings for bathroom breaks without being blocked from re-entering.

Camille Cosby has been deposed in a civil suit filed by an accuser and had been active behind the scenes in developing strategy in the criminal case, according to sources familiar with defense preparations. But she has made no public appearances related to the criminal proceedings. That is, until Monday,

Once both sides returned to the courtroom, Cosby confirmed to Judge Steven T. O”Neill that he would not take the stand. O”Neill assured the comedian that he would instruct the jury that defendants are not required to testify.

The judge at one point addressed Cosby to ask him a few standard questions. He raised his hand when the judge said he couldn’t see the entertainer.

When asked if he understood what was happening, Cosby answered in a booming voice: “Yes!”

 

 

 

 

 

 



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