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Police witness tells court of Bill Cosby’s sexual approach: ‘Petting and touching’

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., on Thursday. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Jurors in Bill Cosby’s trial heard extensive details Thursday of the comedian’s account of his sexual contact with the woman who has accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her.

Cosby’s version of his interactions with his main accuser, Andrea Constand, are included in a lengthy 2005 police interview report. The document, displayed on a large screen for jurors, contains a key admission: The famed entertainer says he gave Constand an over-the-counter allergy medication that he uses as a sleep aid. The pills – Benadryl – were sufficiently potent, Cosby said, that he becomes drowsy and drifts off immediately after taking them.

"I would not take this and go out and perform," Cosby told police.

Cosby’s disclosure to police in January 2005 that he gave Constand 1 1/2 Benadryl tablets could be used by prosecutors to assert that the comedian tried to make his alleged victim lose consciousness. Prosecutors are also planning to introduce a damning deposition that Cosby gave more than a decade ago in a civil lawsuit in which he acknowledges acquiring Quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex. A possible implication of that deposition is that Cosby might have given something even more potent to Constand, who was 30 at the time of the alleged January 2004 assault.

Cosby, who was interviewed in New York with two attorneys by his side, told police how he’d met Constand at Temple University, where he was a revered figure who sat on the Board of Trustees and she worked as an operations director for the women’s basketball team.

Prosecutors have attempted to suggest that Constand felt pressure to maintain contact with Cosby – even after the alleged assault – because the comedian held an important position with her employer.

Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer testified Thursday that, during his investigation, a neighbor he attempted to interview at Constand’s condo building refused to speak to him because "Temple University told her not to talk to police."

Ultimately, the investigation foundered. Bruce Castor, then the Montgomery County district attorney, decided not to charge Cosby. In 2015, another district attorney decided to re-open the case and Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault shortly before the expiration of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for that crime. Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County district attorney prosecuting Cosby, made the previous decision not to charge Cosby a key talking point in his 2015 election campaign against Castor, who was trying to regain his old job.

Schaffer, one of the officers who conducted the 2005 police interview shown to jurors, is the ninth witness prosecutors have called in four days of often riveting and emotional testimony. The case is progressing so quickly that Steven T. O’Neill, the Montgomery County judge overseeing the trial, has said it’s likely the trial will wrap up sooner than his previous 2- to 3-week estimate.

Speaking in a monotone, Schaffer read Cosby’s responses to police questions, including his graphic account of the night of the alleged assault. Cosby, who is a month shy of his 80th birthday, seemed to follow along closely from his perch at the end of the defense table a few feet away.

In the police interview, Cosby said he did not tell Constand what type of pill he’d given her, and that she did not appear incapacitated. That contradicts sharply with Constand’s account. She testified Tuesday that she felt "frozen," could not move her arms and wanted Cosby to stop touching her breasts and vagina.

Cosby, however, recounted for police what he described as a consensual sexual encounter.

"There was petting and touching of private parts," Cosby said in the interview.

Asked whether he and Constand had sexual intercourse, Cosby said: "I didn’t feel like it. I like the petting, the touching,"

At the end of the interview, Schaffer said, Cosby summoned his driver to bring up a bag. Schaffer hadn’t asked him to do so, but nonetheless, Cosby wanted him to see something.

Inside were several pills, Schaffer said: one and a half that were pink and oblong, another that was round and green, and a small white pill. Jurors were shown pictures of the pills, encased in an evidence bag.

Schaffer said the pills were recently sent for testing. But prosecutors weren’t showing all their cards. For now, at least, the results of those tests have not been revealed.