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Bill Cosby’s lawyers open with attack on accusers’ credibility

NORRISTOWN, Penn. -- Prosecutors in the Bill Cosby indecent assault trial on Monday claimed the 79-year-old actor knew exactly what he was doing when he drugged and assaulted Andrea Constand in 2004, while the defense went after Constand's and another Cosby accuser's credibility.

With the streets outside the courthouse lined with television trucks, Cosby arrived arm in arm with Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." The courtroom was packed with members of the public and media.

Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He has denied the accusations since 2005 when Constand first went to the police.

In opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden told jurors the case doesn't revolve around consent. She asserted that when Cosby "handed those pills to Andrea he knew what affect it would take" and he knew Constand would not be able to refuse his advances.

"Trust, betrayal, and the inability to consent. That's what this case is about. ... This is a case about a man, this man," she said, pointing to Cosby, "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."

The district attorney at the time of the alleged assault declined to press charges, and in 2006 Cosby settled a civil suit with Constand that remained sealed for almost a decade.

'Like Andrea ...'

Defense attorney Brian McMonagle seized on the original prosecutor not leveling charges against Cosby, saying the case was "exhaustively investigated" at the time.

"Their investigation revealed that Andrea Constand had been untruthful time and time and time again," he said.

Though more than 50 women have accused the former "I Spy" star of assault, the trial will focus on the testimony of Constand and one other accuser, who has been identified as Jane Doe.

Jane Doe met Cosby through his agent at the William Morris talent agency. She was an assistant to his agent, Feden said.

"Like Andrea, at a certain point in their friendship, he invited her over for lunch to discuss her career plans. Like Andrea, he gave her a pill. Like Andrea, she became incapacitated. Like Andrea, when she lost conscious the defendant grabbed her hand, placed It on his penis and masturbated himself," the prosecutor told jurors.

Jane Doe alleges she was assaulted in 1996, but McMonagle questioned why she didn't come forward until January 2015 and didn't speak to police until 2016. The defense attorney further alleged that Jane Doe had a romantic encounter with Cosby in 1990 but rebuffed his advances during a 1996 visit to his home, which Cosby respected.

When William Morris sought to fire her for violating its policy on dating clients, Jane Doe filed a workman's compensation lawsuit, alleging Cosby had harassed her, McMonagle said.

"What she did was eerily similar to Mrs. Constand," McMonagle said, accusing both women of changing their stories repeatedly. "You will never see Mr. Cosby under oath running from anything."

Ex-Playboy model Victoria Valentino, Florida nurse Therese Serignese and former actor Lili Bernard, all among Cosby's accusers, were spotted in the courtroom's overflow room. They are not expected to testify.

A he said, she said case?

Cosby's attorney, Martin Singer, has repeatedly denied the accusations against his client, at one point in 2014 decrying what he called "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories," which were becoming "increasingly ridiculous."

Prosecutors had sought to include testimony from 13 other accusers, but District Judge Steven O'Neill ruled that would be too prejudicial.

Cosby has said he does not plan to testify. His deposition from Constand's civil suit will stand as his explanation of what happened -- which means the trial likely will hinge on a classic case of "he said, she said."

In the deposition, Cosby said he had engaged in consensual sexual activity with Constand -- and that he had obtained Quaaludes in order to give them to women with whom he wanted to have sex. The unsealed deposition was central to Cosby's arrest in December 2015.

In opening statements, McMonagle launched an attack on Constand's credibility, saying she originally told police she had never been alone with Cosby before the assault, that she went to dinner with Cosby and other friends then went back to his house before the assault and that she had no contact with Cosby following the assault.

The truth, McMonagle alleged, is that there was no dinner with friends -- Constand went to Cosby's home for career advice -- and they spoke on the phone 72 times after the assault, with Constand initiating 53 of the calls. Sometimes, they spoke for up to 40 minutes, he said.

She had also been alone with him prior to the alleged assault, the attorney said, during a visit to his Foxwoods Resort Casino hotel room in Mashantucket, Connecticut. There, McMonagle said, she brought him incense and bath salts, they had dinner, cognac and brandy by the fire and she lay in bed with him.

"I gave her the pills, she took them, we laid on the couch like we had done time and time again. She wasn't incapacitated, we were together, it was romantic. She got sleepy, I went up to bed. The next morning I made her breakfast," McMonagle said, recounting an interview Cosby gave to authorities.

The prosecution countered that the defense was trying to distract jurors by talking about inconsistencies, when most of Constand's story is corroborated in Cosby's deposition.

Feden told the jury they would hear portions of a call between Cosby and Constand's mother, and said the comedian's representatives offered to fly them to Florida to discuss the matter. Cosby also offered to pay for Constand's education, which Feden painted as a concession of guilt.

"There are not a lot of facts here that are in dispute," Feden said.

The criminal complaint

In 2005, Constand, the director of operations for the women's basketball team at Temple at the time, told police she was drugged and assaulted by Cosby, a Temple alumnus who was 37 years her senior.

Sometime between mid-January and mid-February in 2004, Cosby invited Constand to his home in the Philadelphia suburbs to discuss her career plans. She told him she was "drained" and had been missing sleep, according to a criminal complaint.

Cosby gave her three blue pills, saying they would "take the edge off," according to the complaint. Cosby then offered her wine, and after some cajoling, she took a couple of sips, the complaint says.

She began experiencing blurred vision and difficulty speaking, and was "in and out," she told police. According to the complaint, Cosby positioned himself behind her on the sofa, penetrated her vagina with his fingers and put her hand on his penis. She told police she did not consent to the touching.

Cosby starred in "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" and "The Cosby Show." Through the latter he turned the lives of an upper middle-class African-American family into a groundbreaking TV sitcom.

His sweater-wearing portrayal of Dr. Cliff Huxtable made him a household name and one of the most beloved comedians in the world. In later years, Cosby became a public moralizer, speaking out against what he saw as the failings of African-American community in raising children.

Cosby is facing a jury of seven men and five women. Two jurors are black. The jurors will be sequestered in the criminal trial for about two weeks, the lawyers in the case have predicted.