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Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Trial Begins In Suburban Philadelphia Courtroom


The criminal sexual assault trial of Bill Cosby started today outside of Philadelphia. Cosby arrived to court without his wife. In opening statements, prosecutors portrayed him as a sexual predator who capitalized on his fame and power to sexually abuse women. The defense team argued that Cosby is being falsely attacked by accusers with inconsistent stories. Reporter Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY was in court today and is with us now on Skype. And, Bobby, what else did you hear about Bill Cosby today?

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: So Kristen Feden, a young female African-American prosecutor, described to the mostly white jury of seven men and five women what Feden believes was a heinous crime committed by Cosby that happened in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. She also addressed the elephant in the room. The jury might recognize Cosby as a celebrity comedian. Some on the jury, especially the older jurors, she said, might have memories of his character from "The Cosby Show." But she asked that those feelings not get in the way of assessing what prosecutors say he did 13 years ago to Andrea Constand, which authorities say amounted to felony sexual assault.

Now, when defense attorney Brian McMonagle stood up, he did pretty much exactly the opposite. He said to the jury, take a look at Cosby and tell me, what do you see? He had this one line that was pretty memorable. He said, be the juror you would be if this was your own grandfather. He said the allegations are an attack on Cosby as an individual. And then he rattled off a series of, you know, inconsistencies in statements Constand had given to police. And he was doing that as proof to show that this woman should not be trusted.

MCEVERS: Cosby, for his part, has said he won't testify. What was his reaction, though, during these opening statements?

ALLYN: Right. So the whole time Cosby was sitting at a table with his other lawyers. He had this hard, stoic look on his face. He sometimes would grab his wooden cane. Once, when a lawyer mentioned his accuser kept calling him after an alleged sexual assault, Cosby smiled slightly and shook his head in agreement.

MCEVERS: We talked about the case at hand. Cosby's charged with drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his home. Did she take the stand today?

ALLYN: She didn't. But prosecutors say she is planning to likely sometime this week. That said, another woman who has been identified in court papers as victim number six who a judge permitted to testify did take the stand today. And she described an incident that allegedly occurred back in 1996 and that occurred in a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles. The two met just through the entertainment world. And like Constand, this accuser says she was drugged and sexually molested by Cosby. As it was happening, she said she felt woozy, as if she was, quote, "underwater." This was a really intense moment. It was graphic and the testimony was emotional. During answers that she was giving, she was crying. And the packed courtroom fell silent.

Cosby's defense lawyer, when he had his turn to ask her questions, really gave her a rough go. He kept pressing her on the gaps and inconsistencies in her timeline. He was basically attempting to show the jury that her memory was maybe flawed and perhaps so flawed that maybe she made up this whole encounter completely. Cosby's defense attorney was flailing his arms around in disbelief. And he kept shouting, really, you don't remember? But some of this accuser's statements were made to authorities 20 years ago.

MCEVERS: Quickly - we've got about 15 seconds - did you learn anything else today?

ALLYN: What we did learn is that Andrea Constand will definitely be taking the stand. There was some speculation swirling about whether she would or wouldn't. She will be taking the stand sometime this week. And they also hope to put on - prosecutors hope to put on a drug expert who will testify about what Quaaludes do to your body once consumed. Cosby, of course, has admitted under oath to obtaining that drug to give them to women he wanted to have sex with.

MCEVERS: WHYY's Bobby Allyn on Skype. Thank you.

ALLYN: Thank you, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.