Bill Cosby’s main accuser takes the stand at sexual assault retrial

Yahoo Entertainment:  

The woman at the heart of the criminal case against Bill Cosby took the stand on Friday morning in the sexual assault retrial of the veteran entertainer, and testified that she felt humiliated, shocked, and “really confused” after he assaulted her at his home outside Philadelphia in early 2004.

“I couldn’t fight him off,” testified Andrea Constand, then operations manager for the women’s basketball team at Temple University and now a massage therapist living in Canada.

In testimony that squared with her remarks at Cosby’s first trial last June, Constand told the jury that she had gotten to know Cosby gradually when he contacted her for sports information at Temple, where Cosby was an alum and major booster.

Though he had made two passes at her, she said she was clear to him that she had no romantic interest in him, and she testified that she did not feel threatened by him. Instead, she viewed him as a mentor and friend so she accepted his invitation to go to his home when she was deciding to leave her job at Temple.

She testified that the assault began when she became incapacitated after accepting three small blue pills that Cosby said would help her relax. Then, she said, she felt him digitally penetrate her.

“I felt his fingers going inside my vagina,” Constand said.

Cosby is — so far at least — the only major Hollywood entertainer to face a jury in the heated atmosphere of the Me Too movement. He is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He has pleaded not guilty and maintained that the sexual encounter with Constand was consensual.

Cosby’s first trial ended in June when a jury deadlocked on all charges after more than 50 hours of deliberations. He is now facing a new jury — seven men and five women — selected last week in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia.

Constand is one of dozens of women who have accused the iconic comedian of drugging and then assaulting them, but she is the only one whose allegation became the focus of a criminal charge. The charges were filed just days before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations was due to expire.

Cosby’s new defense team is already challenging the believability of Constand and five other women who testified this week that Cosby gave them alcohol or pills and that they then become whoozy and incapacitated. When they awoke, they said, they realized that he had assaulted them.

Los Angeles defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau assailed Constand in his opening address as a conniving liar, con artist, and “so-called victim” who was out for money. She received nearly $3.4 million in a settlement of a civil lawsuit she filed against Cosby. Her credibility is key to the outcome of the case.

Though he was known as “America’s Dad” from his years on “The Cosby Show,” which aired from 1984 to 1992, his image crashed in 2014 as the women went public with their claims.

Perhaps the biggest change since his trial last June has been the emergence of the Me Too movement, the cultural atmosphere created by the growing list of famous entertainment and media figures — including veteran Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — whose careers have been derailed by allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment