Sunny Hostin

Bill Cosby: What's Next for His Sexual Assault Trial

by Lesley Messer for ABC News


Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

ABC News | May 27, 2016 - Earlier this week, Bill Cosby was ordered to stand trial in a sexual assault case brought against him last December.

Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, has accused the comedian of drugging and assaulting her at his home in 2004.

Cosby, 78, who has had similar claims made against him by some 50 other women, for which his legal team has issued a number of denials, insists that he and Constand had consensual sexual relations and that the only drug he gave her was Benadryl. His legal team says that he will be vindicated.

In time, a jury will hear evidence from both the prosecution and defense, but according to Sunny Hostin, ABC News senior legal correspondent and analyst, it could be an uphill battle for Cosby's lawyers.

"If his [unsealed] deposition [from 2005] comes in, which I believe it will, and if other women get on the witness stand, I think it’s going to be very difficult for Bill Cosby to defend himself," she said in an interview. "In my view, if there is a guilty verdict, no judge would sentence him to no time given the [alleged] pattern of behavior."

Constand first went to the police in 2005, one year after the alleged assault took place. That same year, Cosby was deposed in connection to the incident, and he admitted in recently unsealed testimony that in the past, he had given Quaaludes to a woman with whom he wanted to have sex. The prosecution will likely push to use that deposition in court, Hostin said.

"It’s going to be extremely damaging. You have Bill Cosby in his own words admitting to the same behavior that he’s being accused of by over 50 women," she said. "The issue will be for this jury [to determine] consent."

Cosby's legal team has already taken swipes at Constand's past statements, calling them "riddled with numerous corrections and inconsistencies," and Hostin believes they will continue to do so.

"The defense's strategy will be to say that she willingly took the drugs because she wanted to engage in sexual activity with Cosby," she said. "I think the defense will be that she targeted him for his money and that she didn't behave like a victim of sexual assault, because after this alleged [incident], she saw him again."

The fact that Constand didn't report the alleged incident to police for a year will likely be a factor, too. Though Hostin, who has prosecuted sex crimes herself, said that it's not uncommon for a victim to take time to process what happened before talking to law enforcement, some jurors might find it to be problematic.

To that end, "Andrea Constand's testimony by itself will not be enough to convict Bill Cosby," she said.

"The prosecutors are likely preparing the best stories for presentation and that means they want to find the victims whose [alleged] testimonies, character and life stories are almost unassailable," she continued. "[They need to find] women who have nothing to gain by getting on the witness stand and calling Bill Cosby a sexual abuser. Getting those voices on the witness stand is going to be crucial to this prosecution. It is going to be, in my view, the most important decision of this trial."

Ultimately, Cosby's fate will rest in the hands of a jury that has yet to be selected. Hostin said that contrary to popular belief, the lawyers don't need to find potential jurors who haven't heard of the allegations. What's more important, she said, is that they have yet to form an opinion about Cosby's guilt or innocence.

"In a high profile case, you don't want a juror who has never heard of the case because that's a juror who's not well-informed. Your ideal juror in a celebrity criminal case is a juror who has heard of this, but has an open mind and can put aside everything he or she has heard, sit in that courtroom day in and day out, listen to evidence as it comes in and then make a decision," she said. "There are jurors that can do that, and that's why you never know what a jury is going to decide. Some of the decisions [in past celebrity criminal cases] have been surprising for everyone who had been watching."

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