In Bill Cosby’s Case, Who’s the Con Artist? Both Sides Close by Pointing Fingers

Bill Cosby leaves after the closing arguments in the retrial of his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa.

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Lawyers for Bill Cosby attacked his accuser, Andrea Constand, during closing arguments in his sexual assault retrial Tuesday, calling her a “con artist” and asking jurors to ignore the social changes occurring outside the courtroom so they could focus on the case before them.

Ms. Constand, they said, had converted a consensual affair into a lucrative payday with a false accusation that threatened Mr. Cosby, once a beloved entertainer, with “absolute ruin.”

But prosecutors in their final statements to the jury said it was Mr. Cosby who was the manipulator, describing him as a man who hid behind his genial image as America’s Dad even as he used drugs to incapacitate and assault women.

“She is not the con,” Kristen Gibbons Feden, a special prosecutor, told the court. “He is.”

As the first high-profile trial since the #MeToo movement began, the case is being closely watched by experts interested in whether there is any notable impact on the jury, which will begin deliberations Wednesday.

Kathleen Bliss, one of Mr. Cosby’s lawyers, was quick to agree there were broader social forces at work. She acknowledged that predatory sexual behavior was a real problem, but said the Cosby trial was not the forum in which to address it.

“Yes, we do have to deal with sexual assault,” she said. “It’s a worldwide problem. Just like we have to deal with pay disparity and just like we have to deal with income inequality. But questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Mob rule is not due process.”

The argument was designed to blunt the impact of what has been the prosecution’s strongest evidence, the testimony of five other women who said they, too, believed Mr. Cosby had drugged and sexually assaulted them.

The defense attacked their accounts and characters Tuesday, saying they had come forward, not for justice, but for, as Ms. Bliss put it, “money, press conferences, TV shows, salacious coverage, ratings: Sex sells.”

Ms. Feden called the character attacks on Ms. Constand and the other women filthy and shameful, singling out Ms. Bliss. “She is the exact reason why victims, women and men, of sexual assault don’t report these crimes.”

Ms. Feden’s summation was part of a more than three-hour presentation by the prosecution, designed to convince the jury that Ms. Constand, a former employee at Temple University, Mr. Cosby’s alma mater, had been truthful in saying he molested her at his home near here in January 2004. Sometimes Ms. Feden whispered, sometimes she marched across the courtroom to confront the entertainer, 80, sitting at the defense table.

“He is laughing like it is funny,” she said, pointing at him. “But there is nothing funny about that, Mr. Cosby.”

The defense portrayed Ms. Constand as the relentless pursuer, suggesting she had financial problems that she hoped to solve by falsely accusing Mr. Cosby. She barraged him with gifts and phone calls and visited his home and hotel room, his lawyers said, and then sued him in 2005 when prosecutors declined to charge him with sexual assault.

Mr. Cosby paid Ms. Constand $3.38 million to settle the suit without admitting wrongdoing. Defense lawyers trumpeted the number as evidence of a scheme. Prosecutors suggested the sum was evidence of just how much Mr. Cosby was willing to pay to escape justice and keep his conduct a secret.

“It is time,” M. Stewart Ryan, a prosecutor, told the jurors, “for every one of you to stand up for Andrea Constand and tell the truth about what he did.”

Mr. Cosby’s wife of more than 50 years, Camille, who had not been in court for the first two weeks of the retrial, joined him for the defense statements on Tuesday. Before the jurors were seated for closing arguments, she and her husband embraced and kissed briefly. She also joined him on the last day of the first trial, which ended inconclusively last summer with a hung jury.

The defense spent much of its two-hour closing argument suggesting that Ms. Constand had made multiple false and inconsistent claims. The lawyers noted, for example, that she had at one point told police she had never been alone with Mr. Cosby before the night she said she was assaulted. But in another statement to police, she admitted she had.

“They are not inconsistencies,” said Thomas A. Mesereau, Mr. Cosby’s lead attorney, “they are lies.”

In one attack on Ms. Constand’s character, the defense contended that she had once been involved in a pyramid scheme designed to solicit money from others. Ms. Constand testified that she knew nothing about the scheme and had simply sent one email using language provided by a friend.

In another strike, the team said she had continued to call Mr. Cosby after the night she said she was sexually assaulted. “Look at all these calls after she has been assaulted,” Mr. Mesereau said.

Ms. Constand said that many of the calls were Temple-related and she had only been returning calls to Mr. Cosby, an alumnus of significant standing.

The defense team put the task before jurors this way: They had to decide whether to believe Ms. Constand or its star witness, Marguerite Jackson, a veteran academic adviser at Temple University. Ms. Jackson testified that Ms. Constand had once confided she could make money by falsely claiming that she had been molested by a prominent person.

“Who are you going to believe — a well-educated master’s degree woman who works at Temple, who counsels students?” Ms. Bliss said of Ms. Jackson. “Or a woman who is briefly at Temple running a pyramid scheme?” she added, referring to Ms. Constand.

Prosecutors said Ms. Jackson’s testimony had its own share of inconsistencies, asserting that she had at first said she could not recall when her conversation with Ms. Constand occurred and later saying she was certain it had happened in February 2004.

The defense lawyers also spent a good deal of time arguing that Mr. Cosby should never have been charged because, they said, the 12-year statute of limitations had expired before he was charged in December 2015. They maintained the encounter must have occurred before January 2004. To further this argument, Mr. Mesereau went through Mr. Cosby’s calendar for that month to persuade jurors that his client could not have been at his Philadelphia-area home during that month, when Ms. Constand says the assault occurred.

Prosecutors say the records are inconclusive because they do not cover the entire month. Also, they pointed out, Mr. Cosby had acknowledged during his testimony in the Constand civil case that he too recalled that the encounter had happened in 2004.

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