A lawyer for Bill Cosby on Tuesday painted accuser Andrea Constand as a money-hungry “con artist” who lied about her relationship with the comedian to secure a big payday. But on the same day, prosecutors called another Cosby accuser to the stand, who testified that she neither received nor sought any money for telling her story.
“You’re going to be saying to yourself in this trial, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?’ and you already know the answer: Money, money and lots more money,” Mesereau said. “She’s now a multimillionaire because she pulled it off.”
Mesereau referred to a 2006 settlement in Constand’s civil lawsuit against Cosby. District Attorney Kevin Steele revealed in his opening argument Monday that the settlement included a $3.38 million payment from Cosby to Constand.
That payment was central to Mesereau’s argument Tuesday morning. He said the amount is small compared to Cosby’s earnings and donations to charity over the years. But to Constand, he said, it was enough to motivate false accusations.
Mesereau started his argument by referring to potential witness Marguerite Jackson, who, he said, had shared a hotel room with Constand on several occasions in connection with their jobs working for Temple University. According to Mesereau, on one of those occasions Constand told Jackson that Constand could accuse a celebrity of sexual assault and get some money out of it.
“This is the person the prosecution wants you to trust beyond any reasonable doubt,” Mesereau said to the jury. “It’s now our chance for justice, and all we’re asking you to do is not be prejudiced, not be biased … watch who this person Constand really is.”
Constand often complained about money, Mesereau said, and failed to pay friends back for money owed. He also alleged in his argument that Constand ran a pyramid scheme while employed at Temple University.
Mesereau also referred to other witnesses the prosecutors might call who will make other allegations against Cosby—presumably the five other women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault publicly and are expected to be called as witnesses. Mesereau said those witnesses are just a distraction, and the accusations are unrelated to Constand.
“We’re going to ask that you keep the eye on the ball,” he said to the jury. “When you don’t have a case, you have to fill the time with something else.”
Steele, in his opening argument Monday, said Cosby built a mentoring relationship with Constand, then betrayed her by drugging and then sexually assaulting her. Steele said Constand’s and Cosby’s stories about their relationship have a number of similarities, and he noted that Cosby apologized to Constand’s mother about the alleged incident.
“There’s two sides of a story,” Steele said. “The ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ are very similar, in so many respects.”
Later Tuesday, prosecutors called Heidi Thomas, one of five women other than Constand who have been allowed to testify at the retrial about their own sexual assault allegations against Cosby.
Thomas was an aspiring actress in 1984 when she first met Cosby, she testified. Her agency set up a trip for her to meet with Cosby in Reno, Nevada, she said, but when she arrived there she was taken to a house outside the city.
There, Thomas testified, Cosby asked her to do a monologue and read lines with him. He encouraged her to take a sip of wine because her character was supposed to be drunk, she said. And after she drank the sip of wine, her memory became “fuzzy,” allowing her to recall only “snapshots” from the next few days.
In one of those snapshots, Thomas said, she was laying on a bed and Cosby “was forcing himself in my mouth.”
Thomas said she did not get any financial gain from going public with her accusations, and she said she doesn’t have a lawyer representing her. She hesitated to tell anyone about the alleged assault when it happened, she said.
“I wasn’t going to tell the agent because I was pretty sure whatever I had done it was my fault,” she said. “And number two, I wasn’t going to tell my parents. They would just be so destroyed.”
She later attempted to confront Cosby about what happened, she said, as she was worried about getting a reputation as an actress looking to “sleep her way to the top.” She flew to St. Louis and met him among a group, but never had an opportunity to speak with him one on one, she said. After that, she said, she did not speak with Cosby again.
Before Thomas, the prosecution’s first witness was a forensic psychologist, who testified about behaviors of victims of sexual assault. Among other things, prosecutors asked her why a victim might choose to interact with the perpetrator after an assault. The defense, on cross-examination, asked a number of questions about false accusations of sexual assault.
Cosby is facing three counts of aggravated indecent assault, a felony.