Cosby jury instructed as sex assault trial starts in Norristown

- The big day is here. Monday, Bill Cosby arrived at the Montgomery County Courthouse to go trial in the only criminal case to emerge from the dozens of sexual assault allegations lodged against him.

He showed up at about 8:40am holding a wooden cane, accompanied by with Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on The Cosby Show. Cosby smiled but said nothing when someone asked how he was feeling.

His wife, Camille, was not there.

Cosby's image as a father and a family man helped fuel his extraordinary career in entertainment.

The 79-year-old actor's life and legacy are on the line when his accuser takes the stand for the first time ever, this week.

Judge Steven T. O'Neill instructed the jurors for an hour, reminding them not to glance at news updates on their cellphones. The jury was selected in the Pittsburgh area because of the heavy publicity surrounding the case and is sequestered at a hotel for the duration of the trial, expected to last two weeks. 
 
The jury consists of seven men and five women. Two members are black. Cosby has suggested the accusations against him may be racially motivated.

Prosecutors and the defense were to give their opening statements later in the day.

This is expected to be one of the biggest trials since OJ Simpson’s in 1994-95, except cameras are banned in Pennsylvania courtrooms. Being found guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault could get Cosby ten years in prison.

There were dozens of media and members of the public at the courthouse early Monday, just no large crowd. A TV helicopter buzzed overhead, photographers and their step ladders pressed against bicycle-rack barricades, and the street outside is lined with television trucks.
 
Just as during his pretrial appearances, the day attracted a few gawkers -- including a man who asked the 79-year-old actor for his thoughts on President Donald Trump's "possible collusion with the Russians." 
 
One man in the media contingent brought several boxes of doughnuts and jugs of coffee for his colleagues.

People wanting to see the trial in person have been waiting outside since dinnertime, Sunday. Two even paid others to stand in line for them. Turns out, Fox29’s Steve Keeley reports NBC News with big-pocketed owner Comcast paid two people so their news producers can have prime seats intended for members of the public. They did not say how much they were paid.

Members of the public have been allowed inside the courthouse.

Only 30 members of the public will be seated inside Courtroom A, Montgomery County’s largest. Besides the public, there will be seats for the families and media. Also, the case will be televised in Courtroom C, where there are also only 30 seats.

Keeley reports Phylicia Rashad, who played his Cosby’s wife Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show plus a second time on Cosby, will be there for support. Keshia Knight Pulliam is there. Also, TV son Malcolm-Jamal Warner is expected.

Speaking of Phylicia Rashad and an OJ Simpson connection, OJ Simpson was the best man when Phylicia Rashad married Ahmad Rashād.

On the stand, former Temple University college basketball manager Andrea Constand is expected to testify Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2004. She's only expected to show up on the day she testifies.

Cosby says he had a romantic relationship with her.

Constand filed a police complaint in 2005 over the night a year earlier, when, she says, Cosby drugged and molested her at his estate near Philadelphia. Cosby had beaten back rumors about his conduct before, at least once by giving an exclusive interview to a tabloid to squelch a woman's story. 
 
Cosby and his agents offered Constand money for school when her mother, Gianna, called to confront him in January 2006.
 
"She said your apology is enough," Cosby later said in a deposition . "There's nothing you can do." 
 
Constand's complaint was referred to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
 
The district attorney at the time said the case was too weak to prosecute. But a new set of prosecutors charged Cosby a year and a half ago after the deposition became public and numerous women came forward.
 
Constand instead sued Cosby for sexual battery. Thirteen women signed on to support her lawsuit, saying Cosby also had molested them. But Cosby avoided a trial -- after giving four days of deposition testimony -- by negotiating a confidential settlement with Constand in 2006. 
 
The issue died down until 2014, when comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby out as a rapist, leading dozens of new accusers to come forward. Months later, a federal judge granted an Associated Press motion to unseal parts of his deposition. 
 
In one of the more explosive revelations, Cosby said he had gotten quaaludes in the 1970s to give women before sex. The news put a halt to his planned TV comeback and led networks to stop airing Cosby reruns. 
 
Cosby's lawyers have spent the past 18 months trying to have the criminal case thrown out. They've said the encounter with Constand was consensual, and Cosby testified only after being promised he could never be charged. And they argue the delayed prosecution makes the case impossible to defend, given that witnesses have died, memories have faded and Cosby, they say, is blind. 

Friends now describe Constand as a free spirit who devotes her life to family, her French poodle, and her work treating cancer patients and others as a massage therapist.

Cosby doesn't plan to testify, but his deposition from a decade-old sexual battery lawsuit, unsealed by a judge in 2015 at the request of The Associated Press, showed the once-beloved comedian's dark side. Click here for exchanges between Cosby and Constand lawyer Dolores Troiani from 2005 and 2006, excerpted for brevity and to delete legal squabbling and repetition.

One of the spectators at the first day of Bill Cosby's sex assault trial is attorney Gloria Allred, who says she's hopeful "there will be justice in this case."

Allred represents a woman who worked for Cosby's agent at the William Morris agency. She will be the only other accuser allowed to testify for the prosecution.

Allred's client says she had known Cosby for six years when he invited her to lunch at his bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel in 1996 to discuss her career. She says he gave her wine and a pill and then sexually assaulted her.

"I'm not going to predict what the outcome is," Allred said. "We'll see what the evidence is. But this case is not going to be decided on optics, it's going to be decided on the evidence, and finally, it's Mr. Cosby who's going to have to face that evidence and confront the accusers who are against him."

Cosby's lawyers have questioned why the woman went to the bungalow.

One expert Keeley talked to said there’s little chance of a hung jury. That’s because sequestered juries stifle dissention because those jury members want to get home.

The Montgomery County trial judge hopes to keep the media from dominating the case the way it did O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial.

Cameras are banned in Pennsylvania courtrooms. The jury, brought in from Pittsburgh, will be sequestered for the estimated two-week trial.

The judge hopes to control the media frenzy at the Norristown courthouse.

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