Bill Cosby's attorney launched a blistering courtroom attack Tuesday against the comedian's main accuser, portraying her as a "con artist" who targeted a "lonely man" with false accusations of sexual assault for one reason -- money.
Tom Mesereau, the celebrity lawyer who got Michael Jackson acquitted on child-molestation charges in 2005, used his opening argument in Cosby's retrial on three counts of aggravated indecent assault to undermine the prosecution's chief witness: Andrea Constand.
“We welcome the opportunity for the truth to get out," Mesereau told the Montgomery County Court jury in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
He said the accusations against Cosby have been "brutal."
"He’s 80 years old and legally blind, but he’s anxious to have his day in court and here we are," Mesereau said.
His opening argument came a day after Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele revealed Constand received a $3.38 million settlement in a civil suit against Cosby stemming from charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home in 2004. He said Constand did not agree to testify against Cosby until the prosecution sought her out and asked her to.
Steele told the jury that Constand will "describe to the best of her ability what happened," but he asked the jurors to consider the pills Cosby allegedly placed into her wine glass that she says rendered her unconscious before he allegedly violated her.
Anticipating the defense would try to discredit Constand's character and testimony, Steele reminded the jurors, "This is the Commonwealth vs. William H. Cosby."
Constand, 44, the former director of operations for the women's basketball team at Cosby's alma mater, Temple University, testified in Cosby's first trial, which ended in a mistrial in June when a jury could not reach a verdict.
Mesereau described the prosecution's case this time around as "nonsense."
The prosecution has said it plans to call up to five other women who have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them.
But Mesereau said the additional witnesses are only meant to distract jurors from the inconsistencies in Constand's pending testimony. He implored the jury to "keep your eye on the ball."
He told the panel they will hear from a defense witness named Marguerite "Margo" Jackson, who worked with Constand.
In an affidavit filed with the court by Cosby's legal team, Jackson, a former Temple University adviser, cast suspicion on Constand's motivations. She was not allowed to testify in the first trial after a judge ruled her statement as hearsay.
Mesereau told the jury that Constand once confided to Jackson that she had been sexually assaulted by a powerful person, but that when challenged Constand admitted she hadn't been assaulted. He said Constand allegedly told Jackson, "I can say I was and get a lot of money and set up my education and my business."
He said Constand was a "con artist" who set Cosby up by pretending to be "madly in love with him."
Cosby, according to Mesereau, fell for what he called Constand's bogus affection. Cosby has previously admitted to having an extramarital affair with Constand, but insists he never drugged or sexually assaulted her.
"Bill Cosby confided in her that he had never recovered from his son’s murder in 1997," said Mesereau, referring to the fatal shooting of Ennis Cosby in Los Angeles. "He was lonely and she kept coming to see him. Not one time did he ever go to see her. It was always her going to see him.”
He said all Constand really wanted from Cosby was "money, money and lots more money."
"She hit the jackpot," Mesereau said of Constand's $3.38 million settlement from Cosby.
In key testimony that opened the prosecution’s case against Cosby, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Barbara Ziv testified that virtually every challenge to Constand’s account is consistent with extensive research into the seemingly counterintuitive behavior of victims of sexual assault.
“Most of what people believe, the most common knowledge, about sexual assault is wrong," Ziv said.
The first of five additional Cosby accusers also took the stand late on Tuesday. Heidi Thomas, formerly Heidi Johnson, has accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her when she was a 24-year-old aspiring comedic actress.
She said she met Cosby in 1984 in Reno, Nevada, after he offered through her agent to give her acting coaching. She said she was flown to Reno and driven to a home, where she found Cosby alone.
According to Thomas, he asked her to do a monologue in which she would play an intoxicated person and urged her to take a sip of white wine, which she did. She said the next thing she remembers is waking up to find Cosby molesting her.
“I remember waking up on a bed,” she testified. “I don’t know whose bed it was. I had my clothes on. He did not. I was lying down and he was forcing himself in my mouth, and I remember thinking I felt sick and [wondering,] ‘How did I get here?’"
Cosby has denied all of the accusations against him.
If convicted of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault, Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison.