NORRISTOWN, Pa. >> Bill Cosby says he apologized to the family of the woman he is accused of drugging and assaulting because he was afraid her mother thought he was “a dirty old man,” according to testimony read to the jury today at the comedian’s trial.
Cosby’s account was contained in a deposition he gave over a decade ago as part of a lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand, the woman whose allegations resulted in the only criminal charges brought against the TV star.
Portions of the deposition became public nearly two years ago and played a major role in prosecutors’ decision to charge him. For the jury at his sexual assault trial, this could be the closest it comes to hearing from Cosby himself, since he said recently that he did not intend to take the stand.
In the deposition, he recounted a telephone conversation he had with Constand’s mother.
“I apologized to this woman. But my apology was, my God, I’m in trouble with these people because this is an old man and their young daughter and the mother sees this,” he said.
Constand, 44, testified this week that Cosby penetrated her with his fingers against her will in 2004 after giving her pills that left her paralyzed, unable to tell him to stop. Cosby has said the encounter at his suburban Philadelphia home was consensual. The 79-year-old TV star could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
With the state’s case against America’s Dad nearing an end, prosecutors put on the stand a psychologist who testified that victims of celebrities are often afraid to come forward because of the possible backlash. Constand did not go to police until a year after the alleged assault.
“If it’s a well-known person, the victim takes on a lot of responsibility for that person’s reputation, especially if that person is well-liked or beloved,” Veronique Valliere testified.
Cosby’s lawyers asked for a mistrial, complaining that Valliere was offering observations about Cosby even though she was only allowed to testify generally about victim behavior. The judge rejected the request.
Cosby himself worried about the repercussions from public disclosure.
“Do you think there would be a financial consequence to you if the public believed that you gave Andrea a drug that took away her ability to consent and then had sexual contact with her?” Cosby was asked in a passage read from the deposition today.
“Yes,” he said.
According to the deposition, Constand’s mother repeatedly asked Cosby over the phone about the pills he had given her daughter, but Cosby refused to tell her what they were and said he would send them in the mail, which he never did.
“I didn’t want to talk about what did you give her. We’re over the telephone and I’m not sending anything over the mail and I’m not giving away anything,” Cosby testified.
Cosby also recounted calling Constand’s family and offering her money for graduate school. Constand refused the offer and reported Cosby to police, filing suit after prosecutors failed to file charges.
Cosby eventually settled with Constand for an undisclosed sum, and his deposition was sealed for years, until a judge released parts of it in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press. Authorities then reopened their criminal investigation.
In the deposition, Cosby said he gave Constand three half-tablets of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl before the “petting” began. Prosecutors have suggested he drugged her with something stronger, perhaps quaaludes.
The jury was not immediately read one of the most explosive exchanges in the deposition: where Cosby acknowledged using quaaludes, a now-banned sedative, in his pursuit of women for sex.
During a break today, Cosby’s spokesman dangled the possibility the comic might testify after all. Doing so would carry enormous risk for Cosby, exposing him to cross-examination about some of the lurid things in his deposition.
The spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, said some members of Cosby’s family will join him in court as the trial wears on. He said Cosby told wife Camille to stay away from the courthouse so she wouldn’t have to endure the “media circus.” She has yet to be seen in court.
Some 60 women have come forward to say Cosby sexually violated them, but the statute of limitations for prosecution had run out in nearly every case.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.