NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial begins a second day of deliberations on Thursday, charged with deciding whether the comedian once known as “America’s Dad” drugged and molested a younger woman at his Pennsylvania home more than a decade ago.
During a three-week trial, prosecutors have portrayed Cosby as a serial predator who hid behind his kindly television persona, while defense lawyers say he has been the victim of women fabricating stories in pursuit of wealth and fame. Cosby, 80, a black comedian who won over America as the wise and witty patriarch on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, is on trial on three counts of aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Constand, 45, in January 2004. He has denied the charges, saying any sexual contact was consensual.
A first trial on the same charges ended last year with a deadlocked jury.
The jury, sequestered since the trial began on April 9, was due to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) after a six-hour session on Wednesday, when jurors asked to rehear parts of the case.
Last June, a different panel of jurors spent nearly six days deliberating the case before Steven O’Neill, the same Montgomery County, Pennsylvania judge, before he declared a mistrial, leading to the second trial.
The first trial ended in mistrial last June, just before a flood of sexual assault and harassment accusations against rich and powerful men in media, entertainment and politics gave rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
Five women who have leveled similar accusations against Cosby were allowed to testify during the current trial as the prosecution sought to establish a pattern of behavior. At the first trial, only one other accuser was permitted to tell her story.
After receiving instructions from O’Neill on Wednesday morning, the jury raised questions three times.
Two hours into deliberations, the panel asked for the legal definition of “consent” in a sexual assault case. O’Neill said the question could not be answered under Pennsylvania law.
Later, the jury asked to see two documents prepared by Margo Jackson, a star witness called by the defense, outlining her accusations that Constand once told her “it would be easy” to fabricate a sexual assault accusation against a celebrity.
The judge denied the request but granted the jury’s request to see the content of several instructions about evidence.
Jackson, a former roommate of Constand, was barred from testifying in the first trial.
In a third request, the jury asked for the rereading of Cosby’s interview with police who investigated the 2004 incident that led to his trial as well as a rereading of Jackson’s testimony. The judge granted those requests.
Cosby has remained free on bail. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the three counts, although sentencing guidelines call for the terms to be served concurrently.
Reporting by David DeKok; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe
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