Bill Cosby: What's Next for His Sexual Assault Trial
by Lesley Messer
May 27, 2016NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
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Earlier this week, Bill Cosby was ordered to stand trial in a sexual assault case brought against him last December.
Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, has accused the comedian of drugging and assaulting her at his home in 2004.Cosby, 78, who has had similar claims made against him by some 50 other women, for which his legal team has issued a number of denials, insists that he and Constand had consensual sexual relations and that the only drug he gave her was Benadryl. His legal team says that he will be vindicated.
In time, a jury will hear evidence from both the prosecution and defense, but according to Sunny Hostin, ABC News senior legal correspondent and analyst, it could be an uphill battle for Cosby's lawyers.
"If his [unsealed] deposition [from 2005] comes in, which I believe it will, and if other women get on the witness stand, I think it’s going to be very difficult for Bill Cosby to defend himself," she said in an interview. "In my view, if there is a guilty verdict, no judge would sentence him to no time given the [alleged] pattern of behavior."
Constand first went to the police in 2005, one year after the alleged assault took place. That same year, Cosby was deposed in connection to the incident, and he admitted in recently unsealed testimony that in the past, he had given Quaaludes to a woman with whom he wanted to have sex. The prosecution will likely push to use that deposition in court, Hostin said.
"It’s going to be extremely damaging. You have Bill Cosby in his own words admitting to the same behavior that he’s being accused of by over 50 women," she said. "The issue will be for this jury [to determine] consent.""The defense's strategy will be to say that she willingly took the drugs because she wanted to engage in sexual activity with Cosby," she said. "I think the defense will be that she targeted him for his money and that she didn't behave like a victim of sexual assault, because after this alleged [incident], she saw him again."
The fact that Constand didn't report the alleged incident to police for a year will likely be a factor, too. Though Hostin, who has prosecuted sex crimes herself, said that it's not uncommon for a victim to take time to process what happened before talking to law enforcement, some jurors might find it to be problematic.
Like a broken record, Clinton's denial of my allegations was constantly played on television. "I have said that nothing improper happened," Clinton said, looking dismayed. "I am mystified and disappointed by this turn of events and I have a very clear memory of the meeting and I told the truth."
The next day, I saw on the news that the Clinton administration had released the letters I'd written to him. I was shocked! Many months earlier, the Jones lawyers had subpoenaed Clinton for any and all material relating to me but the White House provided only vague excuses and couldn't produce my letters. But once I appeared on 60 Minutes, voila! Like magic, they found them.
It felt awful. I kept thinking, That's not for public knowledge! I wrote those letters to him. Once again, I felt betrayed. All those years I'd helped Clinton and the Democrats, all those years of my life, all the time, money, effort, and passion that I had devoted to Democratic causes -- and they repay me by humiliating me?
The media, no doubt encouraged by the Clinton machine, characterized my letters as "adoring" and "admiring," zeroing in on incidental words, such as when I told Clinton I was his "number one fan" when I thanked him for helping us defeat Oliver North in Virginia, or when I signed my letters "fondly," which I always did. I didn't save that for Clinton. Florence Graves and Jacqueline Sharkey wrote in the Nation, "Questions about Willey's credibility surfaced when the White House released a stack of effusive letters she had sent Clinton."  Not one of my letters could accurately be characterized as "effusive" but that certainly didn't stop them from attempting to undermine my credibility.
They also misconstrued a telephone message that Nancy Hernreich gave the president from me. As Bill Plante reported on CBS Evening News, "Two days after the incident there is a phone call record saying that there's a message from Kathleen Willey telling the president, 'You can call her any time.'"  The White House, the reporter, and many others failed to note that this call was not just two days after the incident, but also two days after my husband's death. That was the day when Nancy Hernreich called me and told me she was sure the president would want to speak with me. I replied, "He can call me anytime."
Patricia Ireland eventually defended my letters to Clinton -- sort of. She argued that I could have been assaulted by Clinton and subsequently written the letters. "I think the letters are an indication that she wanted to not burn those bridges," Ireland said, "which in some apparent sense may be the only allies and resources that she thought she had." 
"This is every woman's fear in a workplace with a superior male boss," said Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick on Hardball with Chris Matthews, "creating some type of a hostile work environment where you feel like you can't ask certain questions, you can't be alone with the boss, you can't show up certain times, you can't wear certain clothes ... " 
Everywhere I turned, pundits used the letters to malign my credibility and refute my account of the incident. People seemed to accept the interpretation that since I tried to remain on good terms with Clinton after the incident, it must not have happened. But that presumes that what Clinton did to me was so devastating and traumatic, I should have been terrified of him and hated his guts. If he had raped me, obviously, I would likely have felt that way and probably would have left my job at the White House. But Clinton did not rape me. My experience with him showed me what the man is capable of and warned me to be mindful of the potential danger he presented. But he did not victimize me! Clinton violated my person. In fact, he sexually assaulted me, which is a crime. But I was not traumatized by it. He degraded himself in my presence and I was embarrassed for him. Unfortunately, starting in their teenage years, many women have experienced similar abuses. It was wrong and slimy and predatory, but it was not devastating. I never saw myself as his victim. And I still needed the man's professional help. Why in the world would I have cut off all communication -- to my own detriment?
Few people understood that, at that time in my life, Clinton was the only person who could help me. I was desperate after Ed died. My whole world crashed in on me. I was a soccer mom who didn't finish college and I had just lost my husband. I wasn't trained to do anything other than be a homemaker and work in politics. I needed a job, so I turned to him.-- Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, by Kathleen Willey
To that end, "Andrea Constand's testimony by itself will not be enough to convict Bill Cosby," she said.
"The prosecutors are likely preparing the best stories for presentation and that means they want to find the victims whose [alleged] testimonies, character and life stories are almost unassailable," she continued. "[They need to find] women who have nothing to gain by getting on the witness stand and calling Bill Cosby a sexual abuser. Getting those voices on the witness stand is going to be crucial to this prosecution. It is going to be, in my view, the most important decision of this trial."
Ultimately, Cosby's fate will rest in the hands of a jury that has yet to be selected. Hostin said that contrary to popular belief, the lawyers don't need to find potential jurors who haven't heard of the allegations. What's more important, she said, is that they have yet to form an opinion about Cosby's guilt or innocence.
"In a high profile case, you don't want a juror who has never heard of the case because that's a juror who's not well-informed. Your ideal juror in a celebrity criminal case is a juror who has heard of this, but has an open mind and can put aside everything he or she has heard, sit in that courtroom day in and day out, listen to evidence as it comes in and then make a decision," she said.
"There are jurors that can do that, and that's why you never know what a jury is going to decide. Some of the decisions [in past celebrity criminal cases] have been surprising for everyone who had been watching."