NORRISTOWN, Pa. — For all the ways the judge in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial has streamlined the case inside the courtroom, the frenzy outside grows larger and wilder each day of jury deliberations.
The media presence, large but manageable during five days of testimony last week, has ballooned as the verdict seems near. Hotel rooms are sold out for miles. Victim advocates grow in number on the courthouse steps, and the Cosby camp's spin grows louder.
Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt, who guides the vision-impaired Cosby throughout his day, has drawn throngs of cameras with his updates on Cosby's mood — “very confident,” is a common refrain — and assertions that the 79-year-old comedian isn't getting a fair shake.
On Friday, he took to the steps to float the idea that Cosby might testify when the defense case opened on Monday. It never happened, but the suggestion was enough to dominate the headlines just as prosecutors were closing their case with Cosby's damaging deposition testimony.
“Cosby's team is trying to plant seeds of doubt about this trial with his fans so they don't abandon him. They're tugging on the heart strings of nostalgia,” said David La Torre, who ran Penn State's public relations during the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. “Their parallel strategies make sense, given what's at stake for Mr. Cosby. He's fighting for his personal and professional lives.”
On Tuesday, as jury deliberations stretched into a second day without signs of a verdict, Wyatt steered reporters to a former colleague of accuser Andrea Constand who said Constand had once suggested she would try to set up a famous man to get money. The judge had barred her hearsay testimony from the trial, but Wyatt made sure her statement got out.
Constand alleges Cosby gave her three sedatives he claimed were an herbal remedy and then groped her breast and genitals while she was paralyzed and unable to fight him off. Cosby said he was in a romantic relationship with the young staffer on the women's basketball team at his alma mater, Temple University, and that the encounter was consensual.
“If he's found guilty, his estate would likely take an enormous financial hit that would devastate his family. That's why their approach makes practical sense, even if it makes some feel uncomfortable,” La Torre said.
Jurors appeared tired and spent when they decided to call it quits late Tuesday after about 16 hours of deliberations. They'll resume Wednesday morning.
The judge praised them for being remarkably conscientious as they consider three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault that could put Cosby in prison for the rest of his life.
The jury's day began Tuesday by reviewing more than a dozen passages from Cosby's decade-old deposition, including his telling Constand the pills were “three friends” to make her relax.
Cosby left the courthouse on Wyatt's arm Tuesday night, shouting the “Fat Albert” catchphrase “hey, hey, hey” and giving a thumbs-up as he got in his SUV. He didn't comment to reporters.
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.
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