NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Comedian Bill Cosby paid a woman who accused him of sexual assault $3.38 million (2.4 million pounds) as part of a 2006 settlement of a civil lawsuit, prosecutors said on Monday in the opening of his retrial on criminal charges stemming from the same accusations.
Prosecutors in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County revealed the payout for the first time in their opening statement of Cosby’s second criminal trial, almost a year after a different jury failed to reach a verdict, prompting a mistrial.
Andrea Constand, 44, has accused the once-beloved father from “The Cosby Show” of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 2004. She is one of more than 50 women to level similar accusations against Cosby.
Her case is the only one that has resulted in criminal prosecution because the others were too old under the statute of limitations.
Cosby, 80, has said all of the encounters were consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
A judge barred mention of the settlement or the civil lawsuit during the first criminal trial but agreed the jury could hear about it this time around.
Cosby’s defence team had sought the right to reveal the settlement, attempting to portray Constand as someone seeking a big payout. The defence team has said it would also present a witness who would testify Constand once spoke of extracting money from celebrities by making such an accusation.
But in his opening statement District Attorney Kevin Steele revealed the payout himself. He may later argue the payout was evidence of guilt.
Steele called Cosby’s action a betrayal as Constand once considered Cosby a friend and mentor. He also said prosecutors decided to bring the case after transcripts of Cosby’s deposition from the civil case became public.
“Andrea Constand did not come to us. After this was released, we go to her,” Steele told the jury.
Before court convened, a former “Cosby Show” actress stripped off her top and confronted Cosby as he walked to court, accompanied by publicists and police. She was quickly wrestled to the ground by police and charged with disorderly conduct, prosecutors said.
Nicolle Rochelle climbed over a barrier and began shouting. The words “Women’s Lives Matters” and the names of Cosby’s accusers were written on her bare torso.
Rochelle, 39, appeared in four episodes of “The Cosby Show” from 1990 to 1992, according to the show business data base IMDb.com.
Defence attorneys were due to make their opening statement on Tuesday.
Reporting by David DeKok; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Jessica Kourkounis; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia Osterman