By Maryclaire Dale and Michael R. Sisak
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Bill Cosby’s trial on sexual assault charges ended in a mistrial Saturday after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision in a case that nevertheless helped destroy the 79-year-old comedian’s image as “America’s Dad.”
Prosecutors vowed to try again, declaring the woman who accuses Cosby of drugging and molesting her at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004 is “entitled to a verdict.”
The jury deliberated more than 52 hours over six days before telling a judge they couldn’t agree on whether “The Cosby Show” star sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand after giving her pills that left her woozy and unable to say no or fight back. The judge then declared a mistrial.
Cosby’s team declared victory and went on the attack.
“Mr. Cosby’s power is back. It has been restored,” said Andrew Wyatt, his spokesman.
Cosby’s wife of 53 years, Camille, slammed prosecutors for bringing the case to court, calling District Attorney Kevin Steele “heinously and exploitively ambitious” in a statement released after court adjourned. She also attacked the judge, the accuser’s lawyers and the media.
“How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant, collaborating with the district attorney,” said her statement, which was read by Wyatt and tweeted by her husband.
Cosby himself didn’t comment. He remained stoic as the judge declared a mistrial, while Constand doled out hugs to her mother, prosecutors and some of the other women who say the TV star drugged and abused them.
Steele said he’s disappointed the jury was unable to agree on the charges, but vowed to put Cosby on trial again.
Constand “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.”
In a statement, her lawyers thanked the prosecution for taking her case and said the trial had “given a voice to the many victims who felt powerless and silenced.”
Cosby’s career and good-guy image were already in tatters by the time his chief accuser took the stand and described how Cosby gave her pills and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay paralyzed on a couch, unable to tell him to stop.
But the jurors clearly struggled with their verdict, telling the judge on Day 4 they were at impasse. Judge Steven O’Neill instructed them to keep working toward a unanimous decision. On Saturday, they came back and told O’Neill they were hopelessly deadlocked. It wasn’t immediately known how many jurors wanted to convict and how many wanted to acquit.
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 was the only criminal case to arise from allegations from more than 60 women that cast Cosby as a serial predator who gave drugs to women before violating them.
He did not take the stand in his own defense, leaving it to his attorney to argue Cosby and Constand were lovers sharing a consensual sexual encounter. Lawyer Brian McMonagle told jurors that while Cosby had been unfaithful to his wife, he didn’t commit a crime.
“We’re talking about all the man’s tomorrows,” said McMonagle, urging acquittal of an icon in the twilight of life.
Cosby broke barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy,” in the 1960s and created the top-ranked “Cosby Show” two decades later, starring as kindly Dr. Cliff Huxtable. He found success with his “Fat Albert” animated TV show and starred in commercials for Jell-O pudding.
But it was his 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.
In the deposition, which was released in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press, Cosby said he obtained several prescriptions for quaaludes in the 1970s and offered the now-banned sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with.
He also said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl before the “petting” began. Prosecutors suggested he drugged her with something stronger.
Constand, now 44, initially went to police about a year after she said Cosby assaulted her, but a prosecutor declared her case too weak to bring charges.
A decade later, another district attorney reopened the investigation after Cosby’s lurid testimony about drugs and sex became public, and dozens of women came forward against one of the most beloved stars in all of show business. He was charged shortly before the statute of limitation was set to expire.
McMonagle, in his closing argument, pointed out that Constand telephoned Cosby dozens of times after the alleged assault. Constand told the jury she was merely returning his calls about the women’s basketball squad at Temple University, where she was director of team operations and he was a member of the board of trustees.
“This isn’t talking to a trustee. This is talking to a lover,” McMonagle said of one call that lasted 49 minutes. “Why are we running from the truth of this case — this relationship? Why?”
He also tried to sow doubt about Constand’s story, saying it had evolved during her interviews with police.
But Steele said it was no accident that some of Constand’s memories were faulty.
“There are some things in this case that should be fuzzy. Why? Because he drugged her to do this,” the prosecutor told jurors. “She spent a lot more time trying to forget what happened than trying to remember that night.”
Before going on trial, Cosby expressed hope he could eventually resume his career. But TV networks had long since scrapped plans for a comeback and pulled reruns from the air after his lurid deposition testimony became public.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done