Montgomery County prosecutors lashed into Bill Cosby in their final pitch to jurors Tuesday, painting him as a serial sexual predator who hid for decades behind his reputation as “America’s Dad” to lure unsuspecting young women into situations where they were powerless to resist his advances.
“He is nothing like the image he plays on TV,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said in an impassioned address to the panel of seven men and five women hearing the case. “He utilized that image and cloaked it around himself, so he could gain the trust of young, unsuspecting women to sexually assault them and strip their ability to say no.”
Feden and her cocounsel, M. Stewart Ryan, pushed back hard against defense attempts earlier in the day to discredit Andrea Constand, the case’s central accuser, as a “con artist” and a grifter.
They responded contemptuously to what they described as “utterly shameful” and “filthy” efforts by Cosby’s lawyers to tear down the five other women who testified against the 80-year-old entertainer at trial.
“She’s the exact reason that women and victims of sexual assault don’t report this crime,” Feden said, pointing at defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss, who had in her own closing argument hours earlier dismissed each of the women one-by-one as “failed starlets,” gold diggers, or sexually promiscuous liars. “How dare she call these women moral-less?”
As for Cosby, Feden stood feet from the comedy icon, pointing directly at the uncomfortable smile playing across his face.
“There’s nothing funny about that, Mr. Cosby,” she said. “And there’s nothing funny about five different women plus Ms. Constand being incapacitated, stripped of their autonomy, and being unable to say, ‘I don’t want to engage in sexual contact.’ There’s nothing funny about ‘No.’ ”
That charged animosity lingered throughout the 12th day of Cosby’s retrial as jurors prepared to begin their deliberations Wednesday.
At one point, tensions became so heated between Bliss and District Attorney Kevin R. Steele while jurors were out of the courtroom that Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill had to break up their shouting match himself with a sign he held up from the bench that read “QUIET PLEASE!”
Earlier in the day, Bliss and her cocounsel Tom Mesereau had likened their client’s legal woes to a “lynching” and dismissed outright the #MeToo movement whose shadow has loomed large over the proceedings.
“Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Gut feelings are not rational decisions. Mob rule is not due process,” Bliss said. “When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing.”
The defense urged jurors to reject Constand’s account of being drugged and assaulted in 2004 at Cosby’s Cheltenham home, insisting she made it all up for the $3.4 million settlement she would receive in a suit she later filed against him. They pointed to numerous inconsistencies in reports she gave to police over the last 13 years, calling her a “pathological liar.”
“I call it one of the biggest highway robberies of all times,” Mesereau said. “Bill Cosby got conned, big time.”
But it was Bliss’ attacks on the trial’s other accusers – five women who testified earlier in the trial that Cosby approached them as a mentor in the ’80s only to sexually assault them – that drew the brunt of prosecutors’ ire Tuesday.
Bliss stood before the jury and maintained there was a difference between “victim shaming” and the type of scrutiny the defense team has applied to those accusers throughout the trial.
Then, one-by-one she picked apart their characters, called them names, and insisted each had piled on with false accusations in a conspiracy to tear down an American icon.
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