Prior to defense opening arguments in the sexual-assault retrial of comedian Bill Cosby, famed attorney Tom Mesereau was billed as a smooth courtroom professional with few peers.
On Tuesday, he didn’t disappoint.
The man who helped Michael Jackson and “Baretta” star Robert Blake secure improbable acquittals gave a textbook opening argument that kept the jury riveted and cast doubt on the prosecution’s entire case.
“Members of the jury,” Mesereau said calmly, before tearing into the credibility of Andrea Constand, who claimed Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004.
“Andrea Constand, the so-called victim, is a con artist who was madly in love with Bill Cosby’s fame and money,” said Mesereau, who referred to Cosby as lonely and troubled.
Constand worked for Temple University and part of her duty from 2002 to 2003 was to arrange for travel for the women’s basketball team, Mesereau said.
“On at least six occasions, she arranged to share a hotel room with another Temple University employee, Marguerite ‘Margo’ Jackson,” Mesereau said.
The attorney explained that Constand had previously denied knowing Jackson.
“And with good reason,” Mesereau said.
Jackson, who works with victims of sex assault, had listened as Constand watched a television news report about a celebrity accused of sexual assault. Constand, according to Jackson’s sworn testimony, originally said she too had been victimized.
When Jackson pushed her to report it, Constand admitted that it was a lie.
“But she told Margo that she could make up such a claim and get a lot of money,” Mesereau told the jury. Later, while on a cruise, Jackson saw Constand on the news making such claim against Cosby.
“She pulled it off,” Mesereau said.
The lawyer went on to tell the jury how Constand only wanted money. That she had been in serious debt and Cosby had repeatedly tried to help her in her quest to become a television personality.
“He introduced her to writers from the ‘Cosby Show,’ and movie producers, but she just didn’t cut it,” Mesereau said.
He pointed out how Constand’s story about her relationship with Cosby changed after being questioned from police officers from three different agencies.
Most important, she had claimed to one department that she had only been at Cosby’s home once and that they had never been sexually active prior to that.
However, in another interview, Constand admits to going to Cosby’s home several times prior to and after the date of the alleged January 2004 incident.
Cosby faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault charges against him.
Mesereau painted a picture of a “lonely” and “depressed” Cosby, turning to the younger Constand to confide in.
“His only son was murdered, and around the same time, he was being extorted by a woman for $40 million,” Mesereau said.
“Constand kept coming to see him and not one time did he go to see her,” the attorney said.
He noted on one late night occasion, Constand drove more than 4½ hours to see Cosby at Foxwoods Resort and Casino, where she “had dinner with Cosby and the resort manager and then, after the manager left, she admitted in a deposition that she snuck back into his hotel room late at night, got in bed with him and fiddled with his feet.”
Mesereau said Constand and Cosby often exchanged gifts, cuddled in bed and she, after first denying it, admitted that he had touched her and the two had engaged in petting.
Ultimately, because of her severe debt — Constand left a host of electric bills, rent and credit card payments unpaid — Cosby became an unwitting target of her manipulation.
So desperate for money, Constand even ran a pyramid scheme to swindle friends and others out of money, Mesereau said.
“She knew Cosby was extremely wealthy, that he had donated between $100 million and $200 million to charity and she knew that she could settle what would be a nuisance suit to him and that $3.4 million would be a paltry sum to Cosby,” Mesereau said. “She knew he had bigger fish to fry, that he was in the middle of negotiating a studio purchase and other films.”
Mesereau then urged the jury not to be “blinded by the shallow media” and other women who prosecutors plan to call to say they had similar experiences with Cosby decades ago.
“This case was rejected in 2005 by the district attorney because Andrea Constand destroyed any and all forensic evidence and records without telling anyone,” Mesereau said. “She knew what to do and it worked. The sad thing is that she was the one to agree to a confidential settlement, so this is not about principle. The only principle to Andrea Constand was money.”