“Correct,” said Bill Cosby today when asked if his defense would not be calling any character witnesses for his criminal trial for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand. With the actor himself now telling Judge Steven O’Neill that after talking it over with his lawyers he is not going to take the stand, and a brief examination of a local police officer, Cosby’s team has rested its case in the opening minutes of Week 2 of the trial.
If found guilty by the jury in Norristown, PA for the three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault against the then-Temple University employee, the 79-year old Cosby could face more than 10-years behind bars. Closing arguments are expected to begin later today with the jury then going into deliberations.
Though he had announced last month that he would not take the stand in his own defense, Cosby and his defense team began reconsidering that strategy last week, as Deadline exclusively reported and the actor’s PR rep later publicly confirming. In the end, they clearly decided the reward was not worth the risk. The defense did try to have Constand’s friend Marguerite Jackson called as a witness, but Judge O’Neill shut that effort down as “hearsay” in a session before the jury was brought in this morning.
As well as being the beginning and quick end of the defense’s case in the trial in the Philadelphia suburb, Monday’s proceedings saw Cosby’s wife Camille finally show up in court for the first time.
Though she has said publicly in the past that she supports her husband and gave depositions in a civil case against him last year, Mrs. Cosby, like other members of the actor’s family, has avoided being a presence at the well-covered trial. Even though members of his TV family and others showed up over the first week of the trial, the absence of his spouse and four daughters was widely interpreted as being potentially damaging for Cosby with the jury of seven men and five women that will ultimately determine the actor’s fate.
After an often rough and argumentative week of testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses, including nearly 10-hours on the stand from Constand, obviously the defense felt it was time to reset that impression. An impression that was also partially formed by a 2005 tape recording of the admittedly adulterous Cosby trying to “set up something” for the Temple University staffer with her mother, as well as various calls from Cosby’s surrogates like his former attorney Marty Singer that were played in the courtroom too.
In addition, with some testimony by sexual assault and toxicology experts, the last two days of the Montgomery County D.A,’s case included extended readings aloud by local police officers of Cosby’s often damning remarks from police interviews and a deposition in a successful civil case Constand brought forth and settled in 2006.
Due to the longer than usual 12-year duration of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for sex crimes, the current trial is the only criminal case in the nation against the once beloved The Cosby Show actor. While over 60 women have come out and publicly accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over the decades and are pursuing civil cases, all of those incidents occurred in jurisdictions where the statute for criminal proceedings has expired. Just under the wire of the statute of limitations for sex crimes in the Keystone State, the newly elected D.A. Kevin Steele charged Cosby right at the end of 2015. He was arraigned December 30 that year and released on $1 million bail without entering a plea at the time.
Despite admitting to giving Constand Benadryl pills on the night of the alleged assault in his Philadelphia-area mansion, Cosby has always insisted that the encounter between himself and the then Director of Operations for Temple University women’s basketball program was totally consensual.
Though originally scheduled to run for at least two weeks, it looks very likely now that the trial could wrap up a few days earlier depending on how many witnesses the defense calls.
Anna Orso contributed to this report.