Andrea Constand’s ‘courage’ buoys spirits of Cosby accusers

Women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault appeared optimistic Saturday despite their disappointment that a mistrial was declared in the criminal case against the comedian.

For them, the public fight in court against the powerful entertainer represented a new era in the battle against sexual assault.

“He thought he could bury us,” accuser Linda Kirkpatrick said of Cosby outside the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

“He didn’t know we were seeds. We are sprouting up, we are looking for reform, uncovering the rape culture in this country where victims are blamed and shamed.”

Johnson is one of more than 50 women who have accused the comedian of sexual assault. However, the trial only focused on allegations brought forth by Andrea Constand, former director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team. She says Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his home near Philadelphia in January 2004.

One other accuser, Kelly Johnson, was allowed to testify during the trial as prosecutors sought to establish that Cosby had a pattern of assault.

Cosby pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorneys have said throughout that their client is innocent of all accusations.

Jurors failed to reach a verdict in the aggravated indecent assault case, and Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial Saturday after they deliberated for more than 53 hours.

‘Attitudes were changed’

In a statement to CNN, accuser P.J. Masten said she was “very disappointed that the judge did not allow other victims to testify.”

Masten was among the Cosby accusers who responded to CNN requests for reaction to the mistrial.

Referring to the comedian, Masten said she “will not degrade myself to ever” utter his name again.

“This is my past and I have no room for yesterday. There comes a point when you realize that turning the page is the best feeling in the world. I have moved forward. I have an amazing life. I AM NOT A SURVIVOR! I AM A THRIVER!” she said in a statement.

Kristina Ruehli said she “was particularly nauseated” with a statement Saturday from Cosby’s wife, Camille, criticizing prosecutors, the judge and media. A member of the actor’s press team read the scathing remarks after the mistrial.

“The vitriol in it to me was over the top considering that (more than 50) accusers came forward and Cosby was not found innocent. There will be a retrial. It’s a tragedy. He ruined lives,” she said. “This is not the end. If we take the good that came out of this — laws and attitudes were changed.”

A mistrial means Cosby was not found either guilty or not guilty. Prosecutors said Saturday they will seek a new trial

Ruehli said Cosby has ruined his life and his reputation as well as his wife’s.

That’s “abundantly clear in the vitriol in Camille’s statement. I just hope she turns that on Bill Cosby. That might be real justice.”

Praise for Constand’s ‘courage’

Heidi Thomas praised Constand’s “courage and willingness to go back into the maelstrom of this crime.”

“I personally cannot thank Andrea Constand enough,” she said.

She said she hopes the case is a wakeup call for women in assault cases, saying they need to get to a hospital immediately to “get that DNA saved.”

“DNA doesn’t lie, doesn’t fade with time, and can’t be altered to anything other than what it is.”

Thomas advises people to file a police report within the time allowed by a state’s statute of limitations and urged state governments to abolish such statutes for rape and sexual assault.

“With DNA now available, this practice is antiquated to say the very least,” she said.

‘Not over till it’s over’

Cindra Ladd, in a statement issued through her spokesman, said she takes “comfort knowing that Bill Cosby’s life is now, and forever will be, a living hell.”

“Bill Cosby has already been exposed as a predator who hid behind his jovial mask for more than 50 years and no jury verdict will ever change that,” she said. “Those of us who came forward to speak our collective truth about what he did to us owe a debt of gratitude to Andrea Constand for her leadership and courage in demanding justice.”

Gloria Allred, an attorney who represents many of Cosby’s accusers, told reporters Saturday outside court in Norristown that it’s “not over until it’s over.”

“I have seen it many times in cases all over the country, and sometimes a second jury will render a different outcome than the first jury.”

Allred said she hopes the court will allow other “prior bad-act witnesses” to testify at the next trial.

“We can never underestimate the blinding power of celebrity, but justice will come.”

She said she hopes more accusers can testify “because that’s relevant on the issue of whether Mr. Cosby had a plan, a scheme, to drug and sexually assault women.”

“I think the jury will be better served if they can hear from the other accusers and then they can make that decision as to whether or not they would convict and whether an alleged victim was in the position to consent or was incapacitated by drugs.”