After months of ultimately unsuccessful maneuvering by Cosby’s lawyers, Bill Cosby’s trial for the 2004 assault of Andrea Constand has begun in suburban Philadelphia, according to Variety. Fifty-nine women have come forward with similar stories of being drugged and sexually assaulted by the now-disgraced comedian, but thanks to statutes of limitations, Constand’s case is the only one eligible for criminal prosecution. (Others are currently suing him in civil court.) The 79-year-old Cosby has been charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
Cosby—who arrived in court this morning escorted by actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show—has pleaded not guilty. In his opening arguments, Cosby’s lawyer Brian McMonagle told the jury that Cosby is an innocent man who had been set up. “Sexual assault is a terrible crime,” he told the jury. “The only thing that is worse than that is the false accusation of sexual assault.” He said that Constand—who is expected to take the stand later this week—has changed her story so many times that her account is no longer credible. Previous investigations ”revealed that Andrea Constand had been untruthful time and time and time again,” CNN quotes him as saying.
Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden countered by asserting that “there are not a lot of facts here that are in dispute,” and that Cosby’s own statements have corroborated Constand’s story. Still, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, which Deadline reports has promised to bring another of Cosby’s accusers to the stand as a corroborating witness. (The prosecution wanted 13 different women to testify, but only one, a former assistant to Cosby’s now-deceased agent, was approved by the court.) “Trust, betrayal, and the inability to consent. That’s what this case is about, “ Feden said. “This is a case about a man … who used his power and his fame and his previously practiced method of placing a young trusting woman in an incapacitated state so that he could sexually pleasure himself so that she couldn’t say no.” Cosby himself is not expected to testify.