Bill Cosby Prosecutor Undeterred by Mistrial, Vows to Try Again
Bill Cosby, the comedian once known as "America's Dad" for his TV role as paternal Dr. Cliff Huxtable, is declaring victory this Father's Day after a jury deliberated 52 hours without reaching consensus on charges he drugged and molested a woman in 2004.
No one from Cosby's real or TV families was in court Saturday (June 17) when the case ended in a mistrial. Instead, Cosby emerged from the courthouse with his publicity team, which read a statement from his wife that accused the judge likely to retry him of arrogance and collusion with prosecutors.
District Attorney Kevin Steele vowed to try the 79-year-old Cosby a second time, saying accuser Andrea Constand supported the decision.
"She has shown such courage through this, and we are in awe of what she has done," Steele said. "She's entitled to a verdict in this case."
Cosby's team declared victory, however temporary.
By sowing doubt among one or more jurors, Cosby's lawyers managed to overcome two years of unrelenting bad publicity for their client after the public release of his damaging testimony about drugs and sex, as well as a barrage of accusations from 60 women who came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.
Constand, now 44, told jurors Cosby gave her pills that made her woozy and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay paralyzed on a couch, unable to tell him to stop. The 2004 encounter at Cosby's suburban Philadelphia estate was the only one to result in criminal charges.
Constand, who worked at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University, is ready to go to trial again.
"She's a very spiritual woman, she believes things happen for a purpose, and I think the purpose is ... it should encourage other women to come forward and have their day in court," said her lawyer, Dolores Troiani.
Troiani acknowledged the difficulty of the case, given the passage of time and the impact of the alleged drugging on Constand's ability to recall details.
The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three counts against the comedian, ending the trial without a verdict after a long week of deliberations.
Cosby's team immediately went on the attack.
Camille Cosby, the entertainer's wife of 53 years, slammed prosecutors for bringing the case to court, calling Steele "heinously and exploitively ambitious." She also criticized the judge, the accuser's lawyers and the media.
"How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant, collaborating with the district attorney," she said in her statement, which was tweeted by her husband and read by an associate of the public relations firm representing Cosby.
Cosby himself didn't comment.
He remained stoic as the judge declared a mistrial, but his spokesman Andrew Wyatt declared the star's "power is back. It has been restored."
That seemed debatable.
Cosby's career and good-guy image were already in tatters by the time his chief accuser took the witness stand, and the prosecution's decision to pursue a second trial keeps him in legal limbo.
Cosby had broken barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, I Spy, in the 1960s and, two decades later, created the top-ranked Cosby Show. He also found success with his Fat Albert animated TV show and starred in commercials for Jell-O pudding.
But it was Cosby's reputation as a public moralist who urged young people to pull up their saggy pants and start acting responsibly that prompted a federal judge to unseal portions of an explosive deposition he gave more than a decade ago as part of Constand's civil lawsuit against him.
Under questioning from her lawyer, Cosby acknowledged that he had obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s for the purpose of offering the powerful sedative to women he wanted to have sex with.
Cosby also said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax before what he insisted was a consensual sexual encounter at his home. Prosecutors suggested he drugged her with something stronger.
The jurors clearly struggled with their verdict, telling Judge Steven O'Neill on Thursday they were at impasse. O'Neill instructed them to keep working toward a unanimous decision. On Saturday, they came back and told him they were hopelessly deadlocked.
The judge sought to comfort the jurors, at least one of whom fought back tears, calling their epic deliberation "one of the more courageous acts, one of the more selfless acts that I've seen in the justice system. ... I feel bad for all of you, I really do."
He reminded prosecutors and the defense that "a mistrial is neither vindication nor victory for anybody."
It wasn't immediately known how many jurors wanted to convict and how many wanted to acquit. None of the jurors commented after the trial ended and they headed home to the Pittsburgh area, some 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the courthouse outside Philadelphia.
Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein said Cosby's celebrity almost certainly played a role in the jury's deliberations, perhaps to convince "two or three jurors that it's impossible to convict Dr. Huxtable, to convict Fat Albert ... that he couldn't have done this horrible thing."