NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Bill Cosby’s defence team on Monday sought to undercut the credibility of a woman accusing the comedian of sexual assault by pressing her about accusations she schemed to plant a false story of abuse to reap hush money.
Cosby, 80, is undergoing his second trial on charges that he drugged and raped Andrea Constand, 45, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2014. At the time, she was director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, the entertainer’s alma mater.
The former TV star’s first trial ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.
Constand has accused Cosby of attacking her when she visited him to discuss leaving her job. After she consumed three blue pills that he said would relax her, she said she became immobilized and awoke to find Cosby touching her breasts and vagina and using her hand to stroke his penis.
Two days of cross examination ended with defence lawyer Tom Mesereau asking Constand if she once roomed with Margo Jackson, who was barred from testifying in the first trial but will be allowed to take the witness stand in the retrial.
Jackson has said that Constand once told her on a basketball road trip that she could make a lot of money through a false charge of sexual assault against a celebrity.
On Monday, under questioning by Mesereau, Constand denied knowing Jackson, rooming with her or ever speaking to her.
Mesereau then said, “Before you filed charges against Mr. Cosby, did you fabricate a scheme?”
Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden interrupted with an objection sustained by Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill.
Mesereau tried a second time, slightly altering his statement and again drew a sustained objection.
Earlier on Monday, the defence questioned whether Constand followed the terms of a $3.38 million civil settlement Cosby had paid her.
The payout settled a civil lawsuit that Constand filed after Pennsylvania prosecutors in 2005 initially declined to charge Cosby for the alleged assault. Mesereau repeatedly asked Constand if she had abided by its terms, which barred her from initiating criminal charges against him.
“You didn’t talk to anyone about the criminal case after you got all this money?” Mesereau asked.
Constand said she had not.
“Then what are you doing here?” he demanded.
Prosecutors objected, and Judge O’Neill sustained the objection. But Mesereau repeated the line: “Then why are you here?” several more times, prompting the judge to remind the jury that attorney statements are not evidence and should not be considered when it deliberates Cosby’s guilt or innocence.
Constand is one of about 50 women who have accused Cosby of assaults dating back decades. Her accusation is the only one recent enough to be the subject of criminal prosecution.
District Attorney Kevin Steele brought criminal charges in late 2015, days before the statute of limitations for the crimes was due to expire.
Cosby has repeatedly denied the accusations, saying any sexual contact was consensual. His attorneys have sought to undercut Constand’s credibility, arguing that her goal had been to win a hefty payout from Cosby.
Cosby could face 10 years in prison if convicted.
Five of his other accusers have testified in this trial.
Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown