Bill Cosby was charged yesterday with three counts of aggravated indecent assault by authorities in Montgomery County, Pa., for what happened back in 2004, when Andrea Constand said Cosby invited her over to his home, drugged, and assaulted her. At the time, Constand was the director of operations for the women’s basketball program at Temple, and Cosby was a prominent booster. The charges were announced today.
Constand went to the police, but then-Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor said no charges would be filed in due to insufficient evidence. Since then, with scores of women coming forward saying they were drugged and raped by Cosby, the case was reopened and re-investigated. So what changed between then and now? Only District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman knows for certain, but the complaint filed by the D.A.’s office provides a detailed outline of what prosecutors believe happened. It also provides a look at just how much of the evidence against Cosby was old—and either known to law enforcement already or, until the Associated Press intervened, kept under seal by the courts.
What follows is based on the criminal complaint filed. It outlines how Cosby built a relationship with Constand, to the point she considered him a mentor. He invited her to gatherings at his home that included the president of Swathmore College and professors from University of Pennsylvania. She went to his place in New York City to meet his entertainment industry contacts. Cosby also made sexual advances toward her, twice, which Constand rebuffed. Sometime between mid-January and mid-February in 2004, Cosby invited Constand over for dinner, just her and him alone.
That night, Constand was talking about how she felt “drained” and “emotionally occupied.” Cosby said he wanted her to relax, then left and came back with some pills. He said they were herbal and urged her to take them. “These will make you feel good,” he said, according to the complaint. “The blue things take the edge off.” He told her to put the pills in her mouth and wash them down with water. Constant did because she trusted him.
Cosby also urged Constand to take a few sips of wine. Within 20 to 30 minutes, Constand said she had blurry vision and trouble speaking. She told Cosby, who helped her get to the couch. He told her that he was “going to let [her] relax.”
The victim described to the police the wide range of physical symptoms she experiences during this time. She said that she lost all the strength in her legs, which felt “rubbery” and “like jelly.” She could not see clearly because everything had become “blurry” and “dizzy.” She felt “nauseous.” She could not keep her eyes open, was not aware o any sounds, had no sense of time, and was “in and out.”
Cosby did not sit on the sofa with her, but instead positions himself behind her. Despite her impaired physical and mental condition, the victim was aware that Cosby was fondling her breasts, put her hands into her pants, and penetrated her vagina with his fingers. Cosby also took the victim’s right hand and placed it onto his erect penis. The victim told investigators that she did not consent to any of these acts, and was unable to move or speak during the assault. She described her condition as “frozen” and “paralyzed.”
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She woke up about 4 a.m. with her sweater bunched up and her bra undone. Cosby gave her a muffin, walked her to the front door, and said “alright.” Constand left Temple in March and moved back home to Canada, where on Jan. 13, 2005, she told her mother what happened. The family soon afterward reported it to the police.
When did police know this? The only detailed attribution in this part of the complaint references a written statement Constand gave to police on Jan. 22, 2005. A few times after that, there are mentions of Constand talking to police. If any of these details were drawn from her civil complaint, this document doesn’t point that out.
After her daughter told her what happened, Constand’s mother, Gianna, also called Cosby, leaving him a voicemail. He got back to her three days later. What followed was a string of conversations with Cosby in which, the complaint says, he “admitted fondling the victim’s breasts, digitally penetrating her vagina, and placing the victim’s hands on his penis for sexual gratification” He apologized, and “offered to cover any expenses associated with therapy.” As for the pills he gave Constand? Cosby said he couldn’t read the bottle label because of an “eye condition,” the complaint says, but he would write down the name and mail it to her.
Cosby called again, the next day. Gianna Constand recorded the conversation.
The next day a Cosby representative called to arrange a meeting between Andrea Constand, Gianna Constand, and Cosby in Florida. The two women declined. The Cosby representative provided a statement to investigators saying that Cosby had told him to contact Constand and arrange the trip. He added that “he had made similar arrangements for other women on Cosby’s behalf.” The statement was dated given on Feb. 4, 2005. And that detail about digital penetration, also from 2005, would factor into the charges brought yesterday.
In 2005, police talked to Cosby, who said he gave Constand Benadryl but “he did not tell the victim, on that night or anytime thereafter, the true identity of the pills.” He described what happened as a “consensual sexual encounter,” the complaint says. Cosby said their relationship had been social as well as romantic and that he never had intercourse with Constand because he “like[d] the petting and touching.”
“When asked if he ever had intercourse with the victim,” the complaint says, “Cosby gave the unusual answer, ‘never asleep or awake.’”
Cosby also told investigators that he had apologized to Constand’s mother, and the meeting in Florida was to “iron out whatever these problems happen to be.” According to the timeline as written out in the complaint, all these statements and facts were gathered before then-District Attorney Bruce Castor announced on Feb. 17, 2005, that his office would not charge Cosby.
So what changed? From what’s revealed in the complaint two things happened between then and now: More women came forward, and the depositions from Constand’s civil case were unsealed.
Constand brought a civil suit against Cosby a month later. Unlike the criminal investigation, which made almost no information about what happened public, Constand’s civil action aired many of the details of how she said Cosby built a relationship with her, assaulted her, and then tried to keep her family quiet. It also revealed the many ways Cosby and his backers tried to make her story go away. It was settled on Nov. 8, 2006, and several depositions taken as part of that case were sealed.
This year, after multiple women came forward saying they too had been drugged and raped by Cosby, the sealed court documents were released, thanks to the legal fighting of the Associated Press, which also tried and failed to make the documents public back in 2005. The court documents included large chunks of the depositions, which later were released in full by the court reporting service that held them. (A hold on releasing them further was placed within days of a New York Times story about them.) Here is how the complaint discusses the release of those documents, which are nearly a decade old.
The release of these depositions generated a great deal of publicity, as well as a number of public claims by women who alleged Cosby had assaulted them under circumstances similar to those reported by the victim. These events prompted the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, now led by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, to review the statute of limitations regarding potential criminal offenses committed by Cosby against the victim. District Attorney Ferman determined that under Pennsylvania law, prosecution for Aggravated Indecent Assault must be commenced within twelve years after the offense has been committed. As such, the statute of limitations has not yet expired, and the investigation was reopened on July 10, 2015.
Investigators re-interviewed Constand, who said she would cooperate if asked to. She said that in her initial call with Cosby she told him “you are a very sick man,” and that he agreed and apologized. They also reviewed her deposition from the civil case, and the summary of that in the complaint matches what she told police. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today, according to to sources familiar with the probe, that investigators also “have since interviewed several individuals who were close to her or Cosby at the time of the alleged assault.” Those interviews are not mentioned in the complaint.
Investigators reviewed Cosby’s depositions, and noticed both where they conflicted and where they agreed with what he had told police. Cosby told police that he gave Constand “one whole and then one ... half” of a pill. In the deposition, he said he gave her “three halved pills,” which he called “three friends to make [her] relax.” Here is what follows next in the complaint:
He testified, as reported to the police, that after the administration of the pills, he lifted the victim’s bra so their skin could touch, got behind the victim “in a spooning position,” and, while in that position, he went “inside of her pants” and digitally the victim’s vagina.
The complaint goes on to point out the much reported-on detail in the deposition where Cosby talked about keeping Quaaludes on him when pressed by Constand’s lawyer. She asked “When you got the Quaaldues, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?” Cosby answered “yes.” The complaint follows with more details about Cosby’s use of Quaaludes, as taken from the depositions—that he said he once met a woman backstage, gave her Quaaludes, then had sex with her; that he said of the drug that“there were times he wanted to have them just in case”; that Cosby didn’t take them himself because, he said, “he gets sleepy.”
In terms of new evidence given in the complaint, that’s it.
Near the end, the complaint launches into a recap of events and discussion about about why the charges are appropriate. It talks about Cosby’s use of Quaaludes and his “evasive and conflicting identifications of the drug he gave the victim,” which are “inconsistent of innocent behavior and demonstrate his consciousness of guilt.” Another detail included is Cosby’s phone apology and financial offer to the Constands.
Investigators recognize that individuals who are falsely accused of sexual assault generally do not unilaterally offer generous financial assistance, and apologies, to their accuser and their accuser’s family. To the contrary, such conduct is consistent with offenders who are seeking to make amends from wrongful behavior and prevent involvement by law enforcement.
The last part talks more about details revealed by Cosby that provide “unusually compelling insight regarding Cosby’s sexual relationships with women, including his assaultive behavior towards the victim.” The complaint notes that Cosby made sure Gianna Constand understood “there was no ‘penile penetration’ involved” and Cosby had given police the “never asleep or awake” answer when asked if he had sex with Andrea Constand.
Those are chilling details—and details that authorities had in 2005. So much of this was known to investigators at the time, according to the complaint’s timeline. Yes, the depositions provide new insights and details, but those didn’t become available because of diligent police work. They became public because of legal action brought by the AP, after months of public outcry. If police or prosecutors were trying to get copies of the depositions, I haven’t seen documents indicating that in the court file. (It is, of course, possible that prosecutors have more new evidence they chose not to include in the complaint.)
The bottom line is that the case against Cosby appears to have been built on evidence that was available a decade ago. That evidence didn’t change. What changed was how much people wanted to see it, and how willing they were to believe it.
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