NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — When Andrea Constand takes the stand in the coming days to break her decade-long silence about Bill Cosby, jurors will hear from a free spirit who devotes her life to family, her French poodle, and her work treating cancer patients and others as a massage therapist.
Constand will be the star witness when the comedian dubbed America’s Dad goes on trial Monday in suburban Philadelphia on charges he drugged and sexually assaulted her. Cosby, 79, could get 10 years in prison if convicted.
When they last met, in 2004, Constand was wrapping up a life in basketball that had taken her from the Toronto suburbs to a national title with the University of Arizona to a pro league in Europe and finally a job on the coaching staff at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby’s alma mater.
Constand, now 44, has never spoken publicly about the TV star under the terms of a confidential settlement they negotiated in 2006. And her deposition from that lawsuit remains sealed. Yet friends say she is ready to face Cosby and the crush of media in the courtroom.
“Andrea is not focused on the outcome. She is not emotional. She’s the opposite. She is so centered and focused. She does yoga, she meditates,” said Donna Motsinger, 75, a fellow Cosby accuser who has become close to Constand since the Canadian woman reached out to her two years ago. “She lives a beautiful life.”
Constand, an athletic six-footer with colorful arm tattoos and a wild mane of brown curly hair, is the only Cosby accuser whose complaint has led to criminal charges. About 60 women have accused him of similar conduct, most of them coming forward in Constand’s wake.
“She’s the only one who found the fortitude to press charges against him within the statute of limitations. I think that’s not a coincidence. She’s so strong and courageous,” said Lili Bernard, who said Cosby sexually assaulted her before giving her a one-time role on “The Cosby Show” in 1992, the eighth and final season of the top-ranked sitcom.
Constand has visited Motsinger during trips to the Southwest, an area she loves from her college days in Arizona. They hike, talk about their spiritual journeys and share the occasional margarita. One thing they don’t talk about is Cosby, the older woman said. Constand also visited Bernard in Los Angeles last year, where they happened upon his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame while taking in the sights. They kept walking, Bernard said.
Cosby, Temple’s most famous booster and trustee, first spied Constand from across the school gym in 2002. He had a friend introduce them. When she mentioned having back pain, he led her into the locker room to engage in a back-to-back, two-person stretch.
They became friendly over the next two years, discussing sports, health tips and Constand’s career. Cosby, according to his deposition in her lawsuit, once invited her to a dinner with local college presidents and also took her to Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut to talk career options with an executive.
Cosby called some of their time together “romantic,” describing a few occasions when he said he made advances toward her or lay next to her on his bed during the 2003 casino trip. He insists the encounter at the heart of the criminal case was consensual.
Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, considers that ludicrous, since the 30-year-old Constand was dating a woman at the time.
The Associated Press does not usually identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault, but Constand’s lawyer has said her name can be used.
On the night in question, in early 2004, Cosby summoned her to his gated estate near Philadelphia to discuss her job search. In his deposition, he said he gave her three unidentified pills to ease her stress. She said she thought it was an herbal remedy. Cosby, 36 years her senior, then put his hand down her pants, according to his deposition.
She later told police she was drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to fend him off.
Constand left Temple when the basketball season ended, returning home to become a massage therapist like her father. During her training, she learned about the professional boundaries involving touch and started having nightmares, according to court documents. She told her mother in 2005 that something had happened. They went to the police.
Prosecutors in Pennsylvania at the time deemed the case too weak to prosecute.
Constand then filed the first sexual battery lawsuit against the Hollywood star, a case he settled for an undisclosed sum after giving four days of lurid testimony about his sexual conduct with Constand and other young women. He acknowledged giving some of them pills and alcohol and at least one woman quaaludes.
After that testimony became public in 2015, more women came forward and a new set of prosecutors took another look at the case and arrested Cosby.
The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
“Andrea was a basketball player. She would prepare for a championship game like no other,” Motsinger said. “That’s what she’s done here.”
Written by Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press