NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby paid Andrea Constand $3.38 million to settle the sexual assault lawsuit she brought against him in 2005, prosecutors said at the opening of his criminal retrial Monday.
That sum was part of a confidential settlement between Mr. Cosby and Ms. Constand, a former employee of Temple University who had accused the entertainer of first befriending her, then drugging and molesting her during a visit to his home outside Philadelphia in 2004.
“This case is about trust,” the Montgomery County district attorney, Kevin R. Steele, told the jurors. “This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to a sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.”
The payment had never been disclosed before publicly, but Mr. Cosby, 80, agreed to reveal it during pretrial discussions. His lawyers are expected to argue that the large amount of the payment is not an admission of wrongdoing on his part, but rather evidence of Ms. Constand’s financial incentive in pursuing charges against him — a perspective prosecutors reject.
One key defense witness, a Temple University academic adviser, is expected to testify that Ms. Constand once told her she could make money by falsely claiming she had been molested by a prominent person. The adviser, Marguerite Jackson, 56, was not allowed to testify at the first trial after Ms. Constand testified that she did not know her. But the defense has since brought forward two former Temple colleagues of Ms. Constand’s who said she and Ms. Jackson did know each other.
The prosecution’s case has also been significantly bolstered since the first trial last summer, which ended with a hung jury. Judge Steven T. O’Neill is allowing prosecutors to present accounts from five women who say Mr. Cosby tried to intoxicate them as part of a plan to sexually abuse them, accusations similar to Ms. Constand’s that the prosecution says demonstrate a signature pattern of assault. In the first trial only one additional accuser was allowed to add her voice.
“You will have an understanding of a common plan, scheme or design of the defendant,” Mr. Steele told the jurors Monday. “And when this happened with Andrea Constand, there was no mistake.”
One of the additional accusers who prosecutors plan to call is Janice Dickinson, the former supermodel, who said Mr. Cosby drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982.
The testimony of Ms. Constand, 44, will still be central to the retrial — as it was in the first trial. The defense, which will present its opening statement Tuesday, will almost certainly question why she maintained contact with Mr. Cosby after the encounter and ask why she took a year to come forward to police, both issues raised at the first trial.
In an opening statement of more than an hour, Mr. Steele appeared determined to undercut any credibility issues, mentioning how Ms. Constand only sued Mr. Cosby after prosecutors more than a decade ago declined to bring charges. The current charges were brought after the investigation was reopened in 2015.
The prosecution had some of Mr. Cosby’s prior statements projected onto a screen, including his acknowledgment that on the night of their encounter he had given Ms. Constand three pills — “three friends” he called them — to help her relax without telling her what the pills were, as well as a later admission to her mother that he had digitally penetrated Ms. Constand. Mr. Cosby has said the pills were Benadryl and the sex was consensual.
The start of the proceedings had been delayed for several hours as Judge O’Neill reviewed a motion by Mr. Cosby’s lawyers to dismiss a juror who, they said, had told another prospective juror last week that he thought Mr. Cosby was guilty. Judge O’Neill decided the juror could remain, though he did not disclose his reasoning.
Mr. Cosby’s entry to the courthouse was briefly delayed in the morning by the protest of a topless woman, later identified as Nicolle Rochelle, a former actress who had appeared several times on “The Cosby Show.” She jumped over a crowd barrier outside the courthouse and yelled “Women’s lives matter” before being wrestled to the ground by courthouse deputies about ten yards in front of Mr. Cosby as he walked toward the building’s front doors.
Ms. Rochelle, 38, of Little Falls, N.J. had written on her torso the names of some of the women who have accused Mr. Cosby of assault. Mr. Cosby, wearing a dark suit and using a cane, was guided toward a side entrance instead.
In an interview after her arrest on disorderly conduct charges, Ms. Rochelle said she is a performing artist and activist who now lives in Paris.
“I wanted to get as close to him as possible without touching him,” she said. “It was a peaceful demonstration but I wanted him to feel uncomfortable.”
She had appeared on “The Cosby Show” in the early 1990s when she was 12 years old in a part as a friend of Mr. Cosby’s daughter on the show, Rudy. She said that nothing inappropriate had happened on the set with Mr. Cosby, whom she said she liked as a young actress.
But now she said she wanted to express the anger of the other women and had chosen to do it topless so as to use her body as “a political tool.”
“I was contesting the image of a woman’s body as constantly sexual,” she said.
About a dozen other protesters also demonstrated outside the courthouse, an indication of how Mr. Cosby’s profile has changed since he was one of America’s most beloved entertainers. His is the first high-profile sexual assault trial of the #MeToo era, and experts are watching to see what effect the eruption of accusations of harassment and assault against prominent men may have on the trial and on jurors’ attitudes.
The 12-person jury is made up of five women and seven men. One woman and one man are African-American. The panel will be sequestered for the trial, which is the only criminal case to arise from the many accusations made against Mr. Cosby by women, all of which Mr. Cosby has denied.
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