Will Andrea Constand’s Story Send Bill Cosby to Prison?

Though more than 40 women have accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, the task of convincing a jury that he is a sexual predator when his criminal trial begins next month will largely fall to just one — Andrea Constand.

Ms. Constand, who says Mr. Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004, is the only woman whose complaint has resulted in criminal charges. Many of the other women never called the police, or when they considered it, found that the statute of limitations had expired.

By coming forward, Ms. Constand is sure to confront the sort of intense scrutiny that most people do when publicizing claims of sexual assault. And her account, along with how she tells it, will be critically important, not only to the outcome of the case and to the Cosby legacy but also to the many other women who view her as their last chance for justice.

“She is the linchpin of the case,” said Lynne M. Abraham, a former Philadelphia district attorney and judge. “The whole case stands or falls on her. She is it.”

The defense has already indicated it will portray Ms. Constand as a scheming former lover who is twisting the truth. Mr. Cosby’s lawyers are likely to ask why she waited nearly a year before bringing her complaint to the police. And they will ask why she returned to his house after he made earlier sexual advances, and saw him after the incident, bringing along her parents and a family gift.

“It is a terrible thing to have to go through,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern University and a former prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence cases. “Being the witness in any case is grueling, but in a sexual assault case, being subject to cross-examination is often so daunting that it’s the reason many do not come forward.”

A review of court records, Ms. Constand’s police statements, Mr. Cosby’s deposition testimony obtained by The New York Times, and interviews with her friends and colleagues suggest that Ms. Constand will present a compelling story of a young woman looking for help to further her career who ran into a commanding public figure who didn’t hesitate to exploit his money, influence and fame.

Ms. Constand’s account is expected to be bolstered by that of another prosecution witness, known only as Kacey. She once worked for Mr. Cosby’s agent in Los Angeles and says that Mr. Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996. (The prosecution had pushed to include the testimony of 12 women, but the judge ruled that only one — Kacey’s — could be included.)

Ms. Constand, who declined to be interviewed, had once harbored dreams of playing professional basketball. She grew up in Toronto, the younger of two daughters, and became a star high school player. A six-foot guard, she won a scholarship to the University of Arizona, where she helped her team win the 1996 Women’s National Invitation Tournament before going on to play professionally in Italy for more than a year.

Then, in 2001, she became director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team. A year later, she met Mr. Cosby, the university’s most famous alumnus and a trustee, when he went to a game.

In his deposition, Mr. Cosby said he was immediately attracted to Ms. Constand. From that encounter sprung a mentor-mentee relationship.

They exchanged gifts, and she made several visits to his home, sometimes for dinner parties. She traveled to New York to see a jazz concert at which he appeared and to Connecticut, where he performed at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

“We were friendly,” she would later tell investigators. “We were not involved in any romantic relationship.”

She was gay, though she never discussed that directly with Mr. Cosby, she said. Mr. Cosby twice made passes at her during meetings at his home, she said, one time unbuttoning her pants. Both times she brushed him off, she said.

“I was kind of embarrassed really,” Ms. Constand told investigators. “I never really thought he would have hit on me. He is much older than my father.”

In his deposition and in questioning by the police, Mr. Cosby described sexual encounters between consenting adults. Ms. Constand’s account was very different.

On the night she said she was assaulted, she recalled driving to his stone mansion just before 9 p.m. She was anxious about her career. He had invited her over to talk things through.

Click here to read more

Source: The New York Times | GRAHAM BOWLEY and SYDNEY EMBER