NORRISTOWN, United States – The US jury presiding over the Bill Cosby trial will deliberate for a third day Wednesday after failing to reach a verdict on whether the disgraced cultural icon drugged and sexually assaulted a woman 13 years ago.
The 79-year-old legendary entertainer, once loved by millions as “America’s Dad,” risks being sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
The 12-member jury retired Tuesday after more than 15 hours of deliberations spread across two days, despite several questions for Judge Steven O’Neill and asking him to read extensively from Cosby’s original deposition given in 2005.
The seven-man, five-woman panel will return to court in Norristown, Pennsylvania to resume their deliberations on Wednesday.
In one of the biggest US celebrity trials in years, a guilty verdict could see the judge sentence Cosby up to 10 years in prison and a US$25,000 fine on each count.
A conviction on just one count could see the prosecution ask the judge to revoke his US$1 million bail immediately and put him in custody.
The six days of testimony and arguments heaped disgrace on the award-winning actor lauded as a hero by African Americans and revered by whites for smashing through racial barriers in a five-decade entertainment career.
Around 60 women came forward to publicly accuse Cosby in recent years of being a serial sexual predator alleging that he drugged and assaulted them over a span of 40 years in cities across the United States.
But the allegations lodged by 44-year-old Canadian Andrea Constand about an encounter in January 2004 are the only criminal case brought against him.
Most of the rest alleged abuse happened too long ago to prosecute.
Cosby attained his greatest fame for his role as Cliff Huxtable, a benevolent father and affable obstetrician on The Cosby Show<?i> from 1984 to 1992.
One of the most popular television series in history, it jettisoned a man raised by a maid and a US Navy cook into a life of fame and wealth.
“Everybody knows you, Mr Cosby,” a police officer told him while taking down his original deposition in the case in 2005. “Not really,” he replied.
Constand took the stand last week, keeping her composure under a fierce barrage of cross-examination from the defence, which sought to portray their relationship as consensual, and Cosby’s accuser as a liar.
“I wanted it to stop,” she testified.
At the time, a 30-year-old director of women’s basketball at Temple University, where the actor sat on the board of trustees, she said the assault left her “humiliated” by someone she had thought of as a friend and mentor.
Cosby maintained in his deposition that he gave Constand the antihistamine Benadryl to relieve stress and had consensual relations, accusing her of lying.
At trial, he refused to testify.
After taking the pills, Constand said, she had trouble talking and difficulty moving and was suffering double vision, before briefly losing consciousness.
“In my head, I was trying to get my hands to move, get my legs to move, but I was frozen and those messages didn’t get there,” she said, her voice breaking.
The prosecution spent five days building their case. But the defence team called just one witness to the stand and rested their case in just a handful of minutes.
While Cosby’s wife of 53 years, Camille, has stood by him, she has largely stayed away from court and his celebrity friends have mostly deserted him.
The prosecution leant on Cosby’s words in the 2005 deposition, in which he admitted obtaining sedatives with a view to having sex.
In closing statements, they portrayed the actor as a sexual predator who deliberately drugged Constand so she would be unable to resist.
The defence savaged Constand’s credibility and painted their relationship as one that involved many meetings, and saw her call the star 53 times after the incident.
“Don’t let her declare victim,” defence lawyer Brian McMonagle implored the jury.
Constand initially settled the case with a civil suit in 2006, but it was re-opened in 2015 when new evidence apparently came to light.
The judge will determine the sentence 60-90 days after the verdict and Cosby could technically walk free as there is no mandatory minimum punishment. — AFP