Cosby’s first known accuser was no aspiring starlet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby has painted many of his accusers as star-struck gold-diggers -- aspiring models and actresses trying to shake him down to get ahead in Hollywood.
Yet the first woman known to have told police she was drugged and violated by the comedian was a college basketball administrator in Philadelphia who initially asked only for an apology from the man she regarded as her mentor and friend.
Andrea Constand -- whose 2005 lawsuit produced damning testimony from Cosby that was released by a court this week -- stands out among the dozens of women who later accused the comedian of sexual assault, and not just because she helped set off the torrent of allegations that have shattered his nice-guy image as TV's Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
Constand was not in show biz and had not been exposed to the 1970s-era sex-and-drug scene in Las Vegas and Hollywood. In 2004, she was a former college athlete whose childhood dream had been to become the first Canadian woman to play professional basketball.
"She's a person of integrity, and if there is a wrong, she's going to stand up for it and do the right thing and be a leader," said Joan Bonvinci, who was her coach at the University of Arizona, where Constand helped lead the team to victory in the 1996 National Women's Invitational Tournament.
A decade ago, Constand, then 30, was finishing a third year as operations director of the Temple University women's team and thinking about leaving the sport.
Constand had met Cosby, Temple's most famous alumnus and sports fan, in 2002 and frequently socialized with him, sometimes at dinner parties and sometimes alone, at restaurants or his large suburban home. He invited her for one such dinner on Jan. 4, 2004, to offer her career advice, according to court papers.
According to her account, Constand described how stressed she was about the career decision, and Cosby gave her three pills to help her relax. She took them with water and thought they were herbal supplements, according to her lawsuit.
She said she woke up the next morning sore, with her clothes askew and a vague memory of being fondled.
Cosby, questioned under oath, identified the pills as the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl -- something Constand's lawyer doubts would have left the 6-foot Constand "semi-conscious" on a couch until 4 a.m.
Cosby, in his deposition, called any sexual encounter consensual and said he fed her a blueberry muffin and hot tea before she left. She said she left on her own.
Constand left Philadelphia after the season ended that March. She stayed in contact with Cosby but said she wrestled with the incident as she studied massage therapy and its attendant code of ethics when it came to touching clients.
She disclosed the encounter to her parents, whom Cosby had befriended, in January 2005. She and her mother called him to demand an apology, which they got, according to the lawsuit.
The next day, Cosby called to suggest he set up an educational trust fund for Constand, the first of four calls he or his agents, including one from the William Morris Agency, would place in the ensuing days to offer money, according to her lawsuit. She said she declined.
Instead, Constand filed a police report in her hometown. The Canadian police report was forwarded to Pennsylvania and investigated. Cosby, with his lawyer, talked to police for about 90 minutes.
But the suburban Philadelphia prosecutor in charge of the case, then-District Attorney Bruce Castor of Montgomery County, declined to bring charges, citing Constand's continued conversations with Cosby and the year it took her to call police.
"I think that factors such as failure to disclose in a timely manner and contacts with the alleged perpetrator after the event are factors that weigh toward Mr. Cosby," Castor said at the time. "Much exists in this investigation that could be used to portray persons on both sides of the issue in a less-than-flattering light."
Constand by then had hired a former prosecutor, Dolores M. Troiani, to guide her through the ordeal. "We're still blaming the victim," an exasperated Troiani said after Castor's decision.
She instead sued Cosby in federal court, accusing him of sexual assault and seeking the federal court minimum of $150,000 in damages.
"I admire her for standing up because it takes a lot of courage to do that," said Bonvinci, now a coach at Seattle University.
Constand also filed a defamation lawsuit alleging a Cosby lawyer smeared her in the tabloid press by accusing her family of demanding money in a "classic shakedown."
Other women soon came forward to buttress Constand's claims. They said they had met Cosby after a performance, asked for help landing an acting job, or, in the case of a then-15-year-old, joined him at a party at the Playboy Mansion. They women said they were assaulted in the 1960s, `70s, `80s and `90s.
By the time Constand settled both lawsuits in 2006 on confidential terms, more than a dozen had agreed to testify on her behalf. And Cosby had admitted, in the deposition partially released this week, that he had obtained quaaludes in the 1970s to give to young women he wanted to take to bed.
On Wednesday, Constand's lawyer asked a judge to release Cosby's full deposition, saying the comic broke the confidentiality pledge. The judge has yet to rule.
"I don't want to talk about Cosby," Constand, now past 40, told a Toronto Sun reporter this week. "It doesn't define me. ... It's in the past. I have a whole other life and I am happy."
But Constand follows several other Cosby accusers on Twitter, including model Beverly Johnson and comedy writer Joan Tarshis, and after the Cosby documents were unsealed on Monday, she tweeted: "YES!" and "SIR!"
Cosby, 77, has not been heard from since the deposition testimony surfaced. He has not been charged with a crime, and the statute of limitations has run out on most of the accusations.
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