Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Strong yet divided reaction from Cosby accusers, his wife, and Temple to mistrial

Some of the dozens of women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault reacted with a mix of sadness, disappointment, and determination Saturday after a jury couldn't agree and a judge declared a mistrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Bill Cosby leaves Montgomery County Courthouse with his spokesman Andrew Wyatt after a mistrial was declared Saturday.
Bill Cosby leaves Montgomery County Courthouse with his spokesman Andrew Wyatt after a mistrial was declared Saturday.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

Some of the dozens of women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault reacted with a mix of sadness, disappointment, and determination Saturday after a jury couldn't agree and a judge declared a mistrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

The entertainer's wife was sharply critical of the judge and prosecutor in the case but praised the deadlocked jury. The chairman of Temple University's board of trustees, who once represented Cosby, said he was satisfied that the jury system worked.

"We're devastated," said Cosby accuser Victoria Valentino, "but the work goes on." She said "a woman's worth was on trial these past two weeks" in the case brought by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand against Cosby.

"Society has failed her and has failed us," said Valentino, who was among several Cosby accusers who watched the proceedings.

Cosby's wife, Camille Cosby, issued a scathing criticism of the prosecutor in the case, calling Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele "heinously and exploitively [sic] ambitious." She described Judge Steven T. O'Neill as "overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the district attorney" and said lawyers for the accusers were "totally unethical." Many of the media, she said, are "blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truths for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life."

She praised Cosby's legal and public relations team and hailed those jurors "who tenaciously fought to review the evidence."

The chairman of Temple University's board of trustees, Patrick O'Connor, said the jury system "worked in this instance. And it will continue to work."

O'Connor, vice chairman of the Cozen & O'Connor law firm, represented Cosby in 2005 against Andrea Constand's sexual assault claims.

Cosby, a Temple graduate, beloved benefactor, and longtime public face of the university, stepped down from Temple's board of trustees in 2014 under mounting pressure as the dozens of sexual assault claims were revealed.

Lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents 33 of the more than 60 women who have made allegations against Cosby, had a message directly for the 79-year-old entertainer after prosecutors said they would seek a new trial.

"It's too early to celebrate, Mr. Cosby," Allred said. "And this time, justice may prevail."

She referenced two issues that might have contributed to a mistrial: testimony allowed by only two of Cosby's accusers and Cosby's celestial celebrity.

"We can never underestimate the blinding power of celebrity, but justice will come," Allred said. She added her hopes that the court will allow more accusers to testify in a new trial.

"If the court allows more accusers to testify next time, it might make a difference," she said.

Two of Cosby's accusers who attended the trial joined Allred in speaking outside the courtroom.

Cosby "thought he could bury us," said accuser Linda Kirkpatrick. "He didn't know we were seeds. We are sprouting up. We are looking for reform, uncovering rape culture in this country where victims are blamed and shamed."

Jewel Allison, who also attended the trial, said, through tears, that "God is watching all of us."

"In the words of the late, great Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he said we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope," she said.

Cosby supporters cheered and chanted "We love Bill!" as the women spoke. Each day of deliberations, several defenders had lined up outside to shout words of encouragement to Cosby as he arrived. On Saturday, a handful of his supporters heckled activist Bird Milliken with "Hey, Hey, Hey," Cosby's Fat Albert catchphrase.

Milliken was holding a sign that said "Perseverance to all survivors."

Allred client Beth Ferrier, 58, of Denver, Colo., an assault-victim activist, said she looked forward to "Round 2."

"Cosby's own words: 'Far from Finished,' " said the former international model, referring to the name of Cosby's  2013 comedy tour.

"He's messed around with the wrong ladies this time." she added.

Social media lit up with reaction, much of it critical that the jury had deadlocked. Some said the jury should have acquitted him. Some said such an outcome is the reason why victims of sexual assault are reluctant to come forward, particularly against high-profile defendants.

On Twitter, Laura Olin @lauraolin posted: "Why women don't report: 60 women give the same account of Bill Cosby and a jury still can't agree that he raped anyone." Olin did not acknowledge that the jury heard from only two of those 60 women.

Another post, by Michael Blackman @MBlackman37, asked: "Why is anyone surprised about Bill Cosby? If we elected a sexual predator president because he's a celebrity, why would we send one to jail?"

Others drew systemic parallels between the Cosby case and that in Minnesota against the police officer who was acquitted of manslaughter charges on Friday in the 2016 death of black motorist Philando Castile.

"An unarmed #PhilandroCastile was murdered by a cop & Bill Cosby got away with rape. Trying [sic] telling me the U.S. Justice system isn't broken," posted Mike P. Williams @Mike_P_Williams.

On Temple's campus, senior Cora Vedrad, 21, said Cosby had been accused of "disgusting" crimes and she was troubled that his misdeeds had been "hidden for all these years." Yet she said she was not surprised that Constand and other accusers had waited to come forward.

"It was about his power," she said. "People didn't want to feel they were bringing him down and they feared that no one would believe them."

Deanna Peruto, 23, a niece of well-known Philadelphia defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Jr., said she found it difficult to differentiate between well-founded accusations and cases in which a woman might be acting on a "vendetta."

But she, too, said it was understandable that women had delayed in bringing complaints against Cosby. "You're not going to want to start a war with someone way higher on the food chain," she said.

Trey Lowe, 20, a criminal justice major and member of Temple's basketball team, said juries in sex cases need to weigh whether victims who have delayed coming forward were deterred by fear. He said the defense could argue that accusers were trying to frame the men they named. Lowe said he welcomed a new trial.

Cosby accuser Heidi Thomas, 57, said getting Cosby in the courtroom was a victory for all the women who have come forward with drugging allegations against him. She said she hopes he is retried after Saturday's mistrial.

Another of Cosby's accusers, Heidi Thomas, said she hopes for a retrial, too. The 57-year-old Colorado mother alleges Cosby forced himself on her during an acting lesson in 1984 in a home just outside of Reno, Nev.

"I hope the prosecution learns some lessons on what they missed, on why this jury did not find him completely, unanimously guilty," she said. "Now we move forward. This is far from over."