One night early in 2004, Andrea Constand, the director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, headed to the Pennsylvania home of the man she considered her mentor: Bill Cosby, a comedian so famous that many called him “America’s dad.”
The meeting was supposed to be about Constand’s career prospects, but she didn’t get to do much talking. Ten minutes after she arrived at Cosby’s house, the comedian, according to a criminal complaint filed against him Wednesday in Pennsylvania, told her that he “wanted her to relax” and offered her three blue pills.
“These will make you feel good,” Cosby told Constand. "Yes. Down them. Put 'em down. Put them in your mouth." (All statements in this article are contained in criminal court documents, civil court documents, or were made publicly or to BuzzFeed News. Cosby’s attorneys said they expect him to be exonerated.)
The former college basketball star had been feeling “drained” and “emotionally occupied.” She also trusted Cosby, who was 37 years her senior and had always seemed interested in her well-being. She took the pills. When he offered her wine, she hesitated — “just taste the wine,” he insisted — and she drank a few sips.
Half an hour later, she began to feel sick. Her vision got blurry. She lost all strength in her legs. She started to feel nauseated.
Cosby told Constand — who is gay and was in a relationship with a woman at the time — to lie on the couch. The comedian then lay down behind her and began fondling her breasts, the criminal complaint states. He “penetrated her vagina with his fingers” and took her right hand and “placed it on his erect penis,” according to the complaint.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, the complaint states, Cosby gave Constand a muffin and showed her the way out of his house.
“Alright,” he said as he opened the door in a bathrobe, according to the complaint. She left without a word.
On Wednesday, nearly 12 years after the alleged assault, prosecutors in Pennsylvania charged Cosby with three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand — a felony that could send him to prison for 10 years. Although more than 40 women have publicly accused the 78-year-old comedian of assaulting them over the course of four decades, the entertainer had never been charged with a sex crime.
Cosby and his attorneys have strenuously denied the allegations. They have said that the more than three dozen women who say they were assaulted by Cosby are lying in an attempt to to exploit his celebrity and wealth for their personal gain. The comedian has filed defamation lawsuits against some of his accusers, but not Constand.
For Constand, Wednesday’s charges represent the culmination of a series of legal battles that have stretched over more than a decade. In the process, she has seen a previous prosecutor decline to open a criminal case against Cosby, won a civil settlement from the entertainer in court, fought to have the confidentiality clause in the settlement removed, and sued the original prosecutor for defamation. Constand’s attorney declined to comment on the criminal case.
Constand met Cosby, who is one of Temple University’s most famous alums and supporters, in 2002 in a professional capacity when she was head of the university’s basketball team. The two, however, quickly became friendly. In her civil lawsuit against Cosby and in her declarations to the police, Constand described how the entertainer appeared to take an interest in her future and well-being, taking her to dinners and introducing her to influential people — such as the president of Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania professors — who those could help her build a career in broadcasting, which was her dream at the time.
The alleged assault left Constand traumatized, the complaint states. Less than three months after Cosby allegedly gave her the pills, the former college basketball star quit her job and moved back to her mother’s house in her native Ontario, Canada. There, the complaint states, she isolated herself from her friends and suffered from nightmares.
Then, in January 2005, nearly a year after the alleged assault, Constand told her mother about what had happened. The two went to the local police office to file a report.
In the following days, according to the complaint, Constand’s mother had a number of phone conversations with Cosby — one was two and a half hours long. When she confronted him with what her daughter had told her, the complaint states, Cosby admitted to giving Constand medication — he said he couldn’t read the label on the prescription bottle, he said, and promised to write down and mail her the name of the drug — and to touching her sexually. He offered to pay for the alleged victim’s therapy and education, according to the complaint, and tried to arrange a meeting with the two of them in Florida to discuss what had happened.
“You’re a very sick man,” Constand’s mother told him. The complaint said he agreed and apologized several times.
In a sealed deposition taken for a civil lawsuit that Constand filed against Csoby later that year and that was obtained by the New York Times, Cosby said he worried that Constand’s mother would consider him a “dirty old man.”
“Tell your mother about the orgasm,” Cosby told investigators he remembered thinking at the time of the phone call. “Tell your mother how we talked.”
The local police in Ontario eventually forwarded Constand’s report to the authorities in Pennsylvania. A team of detectives with the Cheltenham Township Police interviewed Cosby in the presence of his lawyer. According to the complaint, the comedian admitted to giving Constand “over-the-counter Benadryl” and that he “touched her bare breasts and her private parts.”
Cosby, however, insisted that the victim “never told him to stop,” the complaint states. He also told investigators that he and Constand had kissed before. When asked whether he’d had sex with his mentee, Cosby responded he hadn’t, neither “asleep or awake.”
The detectives bought their report to Bruce Castor, who was then the district attorney for Montgomery County, which comprises the Philadelphia suburb where Cosby lived. At some point, news of the investigation was leaked to the press. Castor began giving press conferences on the inquiry’s investigation, telling reporters at one point that he “had not determined” that Constand’s testimony was credible, and that the fact that she had waited so long to report the incident could damage her credibility.
Then, on Feb. 17, 2005, Tamara Green, an attorney from California, publicly accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her. Three days later, Castor announced that he would not seek criminal charges against Cosby, citing a lack of evidence.
"Much exists in this investigation that could be used to portray persons on both sides of the issue in a less than flattering light,” Castor said at the time.
The following month, Constand filed a federal civil lawsuit against Cosby. The complaint included the testimony of 13 anonymous women who said they had suffered similar abuses at the hands of the comedian. In the course of litigating the lawsuit, Cosby submitted to a lengthy deposition in which he admitted to procuring quaaludes — a powerful sedative — for the purpose of giving them to women he wanted to have sex with.
The litigation over the civil suit grew increasingly bitter, with more and more of the 13 anonymous women cited as witnesses going public with their identities. At one point, Constand filed a defamation lawsuit against one of Cosby’s attorneys and the National Enquirer tabloid, which had run an interview with the entertainer in which he disparaged her claims.
In November 2006, Cosby settled with Constand for an undisclosed amount. The settlement came with a confidentiality agreement.
But then, in July, as more and more women kept coming forth with allegations against Cosby, Constand and her attorneys asked the judge in the civil case to void the confidentiality agreement in the settlement and let her make parts of the court file available to the public. They argued that Cosby’s repeated denials — both explicit and implicit — of the other women’s allegations constituted a violation of the agreement and had rendered it void.
Cosby fired back with a request that Constand return her settlement money.
Before those issues could be resolved, in October, Constand filed a new defamation lawsuit, this one against former District Attorney Castor, who’d given an interview in which he said Constand’s police report did not contain all the information that was later revealed in her civil lawsuit.
“Troublesome for the good guys,” Castor wrote on his Facebook page after he shared the article. “Not good.” (Castor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.)
At the time, Castor, a Republican, was running again for his old position as district attorney against Kevin Steele, a Democrat who at the time served as first assistant DA. Both men ran advertisements in which they referenced the Cosby case.
Constand’s lawsuit against Castor and the litigation surrounding the confidentiality of the settlement remain pending — but Steele eventually won the election. One of his first acts as DA-elect was filing charges against Cosby.
“Reopening this case was not a question,” Steele said at a news conference Wednesday, explaining that new evidence unearthed in the years since Castor declined to prosecute had made the case viable again.
The indictment came just days before the statute of limitations would have prevented Constand from seeking criminal charges against Cosby, as has happened with every other woman who has publicly accused the comedian.
Cosby turned himself in on Wednesday afternoon and was released after posting $100,000 of his $1 million bail.
Nicolás Medina Mora is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Nicolás Medina Mora at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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