Bill Cosby: Judge declares mistrial after jury says it is 'hopelessly deadlocked' in sexual assault case

Prosecutors plan to retry the celebrity accused of sexual assault

Clark Mindock
New York
Saturday 17 June 2017 16:30 BST
The comedian known as 'America's dad' was not convicted of sexual assault
The comedian known as 'America's dad' was not convicted of sexual assault (Mark Makela/Getty)

The case against Bill Cosby for allegedly sexually assaulting Andrea Constand has been deemed a mistrial by the Pennsylvania judge overseeing the proceedings.

The judge said that the jurors were “hopelessly deadlocked” and commended them for their service.

“I remind everyone that this is not vindication or victory,” Judge Steven O’Neill said. “A mistrial is merely the justice system at work”.

Prosecutors in the case said that they will retry Cosby, who has been accused by dozens of women of using wealth, celebrity, and drugs to take advantage of them sexually.

Jurors had indicated earlier in the week that they were at an impasse over the case, and had asked to review nearly all of the key testimony from the case over the course of their deliberations. Still, the jurors remained deadlocked over the three counts of aggravated indecent assault that Cosby faced. Jurors were sent back repeatedly to reconsider the case.

The mistrial decision came on a rainy day in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where the case had been moved to following requests from the defence for a trial in a different area from the alleged crime. Reporters quickly assembled outside of the courthouse, awaiting word from the district attorney who prosecuted the case.

Ms Constand was present in the courthouse alongside many women who have also accused Cosby of sexual assault. Ms Constand is the only woman who has been able to take her accusations to criminal court thus far.

“He thought he could bury us. He didn't know we are seeds... uncovering the rape culture in this country,” Linda Kirkpatrick, who has also accused Cosby of sexual assault, said in defiance.

Another accuser, Victoria Valentino, said that she and others were “devastated” by the mistrial.

When the mistrial was announced, both Cosby and Ms Constand were in the courthouse. Ms Constand sat stoically in the front row of the room, alongside her mother and a detective. Cosby clutched to a cane as the decision was announced, moving very little during the announcement before leaving the court.

“How do I describe the District Attorney? Heinously and exploitatively ambitious,” Camille Cosby, Cosby’s wife, said in a statement. “How do I describe the judge? Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the District Attorney”.

Cosby’s publicist said that the mistrial was vindication, and said that the decision “restored” his client’s power.

The case against Cosby surrounds allegations by Ms Constand that he had invited her to his Pennsylvania home in 2004, before drugging her and sexually assaulting her. Ms Constand attests that Cosby gave her three blue pills that left her virtually paralysed and unable to defend herself against Cosby’s assaults. Cosby has vehemently rejected any claims that his interactions with Ms Constand were anything but consensual. He has denied any wrongdoing in response to other allegations as well.

Still, the allegations have taken a heavy toll on Cosby.

The man once known as “America’s dad” for his role in television programmes that broke ground in the US portraying a black man as a successful and caring father, has been stripped of several honours he has received. Honorary degrees granted to him have been revoked in the past several years as allegations of sexual misconduct have swirled. Potentially lucrative business deals have fallen apart for the celebrity comedian as well.

At the time of the alleged assault, Ms Constand was an operations manager for the women’s basketball program at Temple University, where Cosby was the most notable alumnus and a member of the board of trustees. The two had a friendly relationship, and Ms Constand viewed Cosby as a trusted mentor and father figure. She did not file a report on the assault for more than a year following the alleged incident.

While the allegations were repeatedly attacked by Cosby’s lawyers, who noted inconsistencies in her accusations, the case seemed unlikely to land in court during the mid-2000s. But nearly a decade later a series of improbable events led to trouble for the celebrity.

It started with a fellow comedian.

In a routine that went viral, comedian Hannibal Buress delivered a stinging rebuke in 2014 to comments from Cosby that black Americans needed to act more maturely and civilly, all but blaming them and their actions for the circumstances surrounding black people in the United States. Mr Burress noted that Cosby was perhaps not a saint himself, and brought up the longstanding accusations of Ms Constand against him of sexual assault.

The result of that viral bit was that other women who say they’ve been assaulted by Cosby came forward. The following two years or so saw accusations upon accusations that Cosby had sexually assaulted women.

When Cosby’s case might see a courtroom again is unclear.

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