Bill Cosby retrial: Comedian paid sexual assault accuser $3.4m in previously undisclosed settlement

The retrial is the second time that Mr Cosby has faced trial over his alleged sexual assaults after a mistrial last year

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 10 April 2018 07:19 BST
Mr Cosby arriving for his retrial in Pennsylvania
Mr Cosby arriving for his retrial in Pennsylvania (AP)

Prosecutors have revealed that Bill Cosby paid sexual assault accuser Andrea Constand $3.38 million to settle a 2005 lawsuit during the opening day of the comedian’s criminal retrial.

The newly-disclosed multi-million dollar sum was paid as a part of a confidential settlement between Mr Cosby and Ms Constand, a former Temple University employee who has accused Mr Cosby of first befriending her before drugging and molesting her at his home outside of Philadelphia in 2004.

“This case is about trust,” Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County district attorney prosecuting Mr Cosby, told jurors Monday. “This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to a sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.”

The retrial is the second time Mr Cosby has faced legal allegations of sexual assault since jurors were unable to come to a decision during his first trial last summer.

Mr Cosby, 80, and his lawyers agreed to reveal the large settlement sum — which has never been publicly disclosed before, though other parts of the settlement had been known publicly — to the jurors, which the defence reportedly plans on pointing to as evidence that Ms Constand had a financial incentive to pursue charges against the comedian, not is an admission of wrongdoing.

In addition to the settlement sum, both the prosecution and defence have had their cases bolstered compared to what was allowed in the first trial.

For the defence, a key witness — a Temple University academic adviser — is expected to testify that Ms Constand told her once that she could make a lot of money by falsely claiming she had been sexually molested by a prominent individual. Fifty-six year-old Marguerite Jackson, the academic adviser, was not allowed to testify in the previous trial because Ms Constand said then that she did not know her. The defence has since brought forward two former colleagues who say the two did know each other.

For the prosecution, the judge in this case will allow the testimony of five other women who have said Mr Cosby tried to intoxicate them and then sexually abuse them. Those accusations are similar to the accusations from Ms Constand, and would help prosecutors establish a pattern of assault.

Just one other accuser was allowed to testify in the trial last year.

The start of the retrial at the courthouse in Montgomery County, an suburban area of Philadelphia, brought protesters who denounced Mr Cosby and expressed support for the numerous women who have accused Mr Cosby of sexually assaulting them.

They included a topless protester with “Women’s Lives Matters” written on her chest who jumped a barricade and hurtled towards the defendant as he entered the building. The woman, who was later identified as actor Nicolle Rochelle, was intercepted by sheriff’s deputies.

Ms Rochelle reportedly appeared on several episodes of The Cosby Show — the television programme that made Cosby a household name in America.

Mr Cosby’s retrial — which is likely to include much of the evidence from the last trial in addition to the new evidence detailed above — comes against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement. A deluge of women have accused powerful men in Hollywood, media, art, government, and elsewhere of sexual harassment or assault in recent months, leading to a reckoning for many of those men and a national discussion about the behaviour of powerful men in industry. In many of those cases, the women came forward to tell their stories after years of silence.

Mr Cosby, if convicted, could face up to 10 years in prison for the charges he faces, which include aggravated indecent assault.

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