Bill Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges ended without a verdict Saturday after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision in a case that helped destroy the 79-year-old comedian’s image as “America’s Dad.”
Jurors deliberated more than 52 hours over six days before telling a judge they couldn’t agree on whether “The Cosby Show” star drugged and molested Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. The judge then declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors said they would retry Cosby, who remains charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
Bill Cosby reacts after Judge Steven O’Neill declares a mistrial in the aggravated indecent assault trial of entertainer Bill Cosby, at Montgomery County Courthouse, in Norristown, Pa., on June 17, 2017 (Getty Images)
The comedian’s career and good-guy image were already in tatters by the time his chief accuser took the stand and described how Cosby gave her pills and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay paralyzed on a couch, unable to tell him to stop.
But the jurors clearly struggled with their verdict, telling the judge on Day 4 they were at impasse. Judge Steven O’Neill instructed them to keep working toward a unanimous decision. On Saturday, they came back and told O’Neill they were hopelessly deadlocked.
It was the only criminal case to arise from allegations from more than 60 women that cast Cosby — married more than 50 years — as a serial predator who gave drugs to women before violating them.
He did not take the stand in his own defense, leaving it to his attorney to argue Cosby and Constand were lovers sharing a consensual sexual encounter. Lawyer Brian McMonagle told jurors that while Cosby had been unfaithful to his wife, he didn’t commit a crime.
“We’re talking about all the man’s tomorrows,” said McMonagle, urging acquittal of an icon in the twilight of life.
Cosby broke barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy,” in the 1960s and created the top-ranked “Cosby Show” two decades later, starring as kindly Dr. Cliff Huxtable. He found success with his “Fat Albert” animated TV show and starred in commercials for Jello-O pudding.
But it was his reputation as a public moralist who urged young people to pull up their saggy pants and start acting responsibly that prompted a federal judge to unseal portions of an explosive deposition he gave more than a decade ago as part of Constand’s civil lawsuit against him.
In the deposition, released in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press, Cosby said he obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s and offered the now-banned sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with.
He also said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl before the “petting” began. Prosecutors suggested he drugged her with something stronger.
Constand, 44, initially went to police about a year after she said Cosby assaulted her, but a prosecutor declared her case too weak to bring charges.
A decade later, a new district attorney reopened the investigation after Cosby’s lurid testimony about drugs and sex became public, and dozens of women came forward against one of the most beloved stars in all of show business. He was charged shortly before the statute of limitation was set to expire.
McMonagle, in his closing argument, pointed out that Constand telephoned Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault. Constand told the jury she was merely returning his calls about the women’s basketball squad at Temple University, where she was director of team operations and he was a member of the board of trustees.
“This isn’t talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover,” McMonagle said of one call that lasted 49 minutes. “Why are we running from the truth of this case — this relationship? Why?”
He also tried to sow doubt about Constand’s story, saying it had evolved during her interviews with police.
But Steele, the district attorney, said it was no accident that some of Constand’s memories were faulty.
“There are some things in this case that should be fuzzy. Why? Because he drugged her to do this,” the prosecutor told jurors. “She spent a lot more time trying to forget what happened than trying to remember that night.”
Before going on trial, Cosby expressed hope he could eventually resume his career. But TV networks had long since scrapped plans for a comeback and pulled reruns from the air after his lurid deposition testimony became public.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.