Cosby’s only criminal sex-assault case ends in hung jury, mistrial

(AP) – The sexual-assault trial of Bill Cosby ended in a mistrial Saturday, an ambiguous outcome that did little to repair the iconic entertainer’s shattered reputation and left prosecutors vowing a retrial as soon as this year.

After five days and 52 hours of deliberations in the Norristown courthouse, the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on the three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Cosby — the only criminal charges to emerge from the allegations of dozens of women who have said they were drugged and assaulted by the celebrity once known as “America’s Dad.”

“I remind everyone that this is not vindication or victory,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill said before dismissing the jury of seven men and five women, some who cried openly in the jury box. “A mistrial is merely the justice system at work.”

He said he would schedule another trial within 120 days.

The result reflected an inconclusive end to a case that had raised questions about the role race, sexual entitlement, a scandal-hungry media, and Hollywood’s casting-couch culture played in the ruin of a once-beloved celebrity. And within minutes, the posturing for the next trial had already begun.

Emerging from the courthouse to cheers, Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt pumped his fist and declared his boss’ legacy “didn’t go anywhere. It has been restored.” Another aide read an accusation-laden statement from Cosby’s wife, Camille, that attacked the prosecutors, the media, and even the judge.

“How do I describe the district attorney? Heinously and exploitively ambitious,” it began. “How do I describe the judge? Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the district attorney.”

But despite those declarations of victory before the throngs of television cameras, Cosby’s flat, fatigued expression – both inside and outside the courthouse — offered no indication of a man who had just been spared prison and was steeling himself for another fight.

When the judge announced his ruling, a small group of his aides and supporters in the courtroom had jumped up, embraced, and congratulated one another. But the blind entertainer, who turns 80 next month, sat alone — off to the side and all but overlooked, clutching his cane to his chest and staring silently into the distance.

Meanwhile, Andrea Constand, his 44-year-old accuser, stood respectfully with a self-conscious smile on her face as the jury filed out of the courtroom in front of her.

The judge had sealed jurors’ names before the trial began, and urged them not to discuss their deliberations with the media. By nightfall, the panel – and the six alternates chosen with them last month in Allegheny County – had been escorted back across the state, some to waiting families.

In a news conference, District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said he did not know what kept the jury from reaching a unanimous verdict. He said prosecutors would reevaluate the evidence and witnesses they presented over five days but vowed to retry the case as quickly as possible.

“This is a case we know has been important for sexual-assault victims everywhere,” Steele said. Then he singled out Constand: “She has shown such courage through this. … She’s entitled to a verdict in this case.”

For other Cosby accusers, the trial had taken on an almost totemic status because their own claims were too old to prosecute. Several attended the proceedings, and, as the mistrial was announced, they rushed to Constand’s side to console her and praise her bravery.

Displaying the same Zen-like tranquility she had projected throughout the trial, it was soon Constand doing the comforting as the other women broke down crying. As she smiled, her eyes remained dry.

When a reporter asked if she was willing to go through a retrial, Constand’s lawyer stepped in.

“We’re ready,” Dolores Troiani declared. “Can we come back tomorrow?”