Bill Cosby’s main accuser at his retrial for sexual assault took the stand on Friday and said she was seeking justice in a 13-year legal battle with the TV celebrity.
Andrea Constand (45) appeared in a courtroom in Cosby's home county in Pennsylvania for the second time in 10 months, the first trial last June ended in a hung jury. The Canadian massage therapist has been alleging publicly since she first went to police in 2005 that the comic drugged and molested her at his mansion in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Ms Constand was asked by a prosecutor, Kristen Feden, to state why she was present at the trial. Sitting just five metres from the star of The Cosby Show, she replied: "For justice".
How Ms Constand’s testimony will play with the seven men and five women of the jury will hold the key to Cosby’s fate. He faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, all relating to the alleged 2004 encounter with Ms Constand and each bearing a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If found guilty, the 80-year-old TV star could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Ms Constand recalled the events of January 2004 when she was invited to Cosby’s home having become his friend when she was managing the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where he was a trustee. The TV star offered her three blue pills, she said, which he called “your friends. They’ll help take the edge off”.
The witness said: “I trusted him. So I took them.”
Soon after, she said, she started having double vision. “I looked at Mr Cosby, and I said: ‘I see two of you.’”
She passed out on a sofa. The next thing she remembered, she told the jury, was waking with a jolt. “I felt Mr Cosby on the couch behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breasts being touched.”
Dana DiFilippo of Philadelphia public radio reported that Ms Constand accused Cosby of placing her hand on his penis: “I was not able to do a thing to fight back. I wanted it to stop.” She left the mansion at about 4am or 5am the next day.
Ms Constand’s testimony was buttressed earlier this week by the evidence of five women who all told strikingly similar stories of having been lured by Cosby with the promise that he would mentor and coach them, only to find their trust in him shattered when he allegedly sedated and then violated them.
Prosecutors are hoping the cumulative impact of so many echoing accounts – in contrast to the first trial in which only one other woman was allowed to address the jury – will tip the outcome towards a guilty verdict.
The five women included the most famous of Cosby's alleged victims, the former supermodel Janice Dickinson, who in a feisty appearance in the witness stand on Thursday accused the comic of drugging and raping her in Lake Tahoe, California, in 1982. Ms Dickinson (63) said that the comic attacked her having given her a blue pill to assuage menstrual cramps.
“I remember thinking, ‘What the heck is he doing?’ I was just in shock. Here was ‘America’s Dad’ on top of me, a happily married man with five children. I remember thinking how wrong it was – how very, very wrong it was.”
Cosby’s defence team, newly assembled since the first trial, has sought to discredit Ms Constand in the eyes of the jury by portraying her as a con artist whose only motive in accusing the celebrity of sexual crimes was to get money off him.
In relentlessly aggressive opening arguments, lead defence attorney Tom Mesereau, the white-haired crack Hollywood lawyer who successfully defended Michael Jackson in his child molestation trial, suggested Ms Constand "hit the jackpot" when Cosby paid her $3.4 million to settle a 2006 civil suit she had brought against him. – Guardian