Cosby’s defense so far is that drugging women used to be ‘fashionable’

Sex crime defendants routinely resort to the cliché, “he said, she said,” and Bill Cosby is no exception; the phrase was mentioned more than once Monday by his lawyers. It’s not a bad defense, on the face of it. Sexual relationships, shading as they do into matters of the heart, are apt to seethe with confusion, drama and emotion; the truth about what happens between dissenting lovers in private is consequently hard to determine, and harder to litigate.

But persuading a person to ingest a “harmless” intoxicant is another thing altogether, even when the ultimate goal is sex — though that too is in question, if one’s “sex partner” is meant to be literally unconscious and unresponsive during the act, that is, not a “partner” in the strict sense of the word. Giving someone a drink of wine, an “herbal remedy,” a tab of Benadryl meant as a sleeping aid — when really the contents of the wine or the pill are not as advertised — is the work of a poisoner.

Imagine giving someone an adulterated drink, secure in the knowledge that that person is, unbeknownst to her, soon going to be unconscious, at which point you can undress and penetrate her. You’ll have to wait a few minutes, but then you’ll be in full rather than partial control of what happens next. That’s not “romance,” it’s not sex. It’s something different, something very dark, an aggressive and malevolent crime entirely separate from the sexual part of it.

Kelly Johnson is 24 years younger than Cosby, and Andrea Constand is 37 years younger. Both have said repeatedly that they trusted and admired Cosby. Now he claims that his “relationships” with them were “romantic” and consensual.

On Monday Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle described a “flawed” Cosby. “Some of you see a brilliant comedian… some of you see a flawed husband whose infidelity has made him vulnerable.” But through his own admission, Cosby was an unrepentant serial adulterer: His infidelity was rampant, and accomplished at times with the aid of Quaaludes given to “consenting women” back when it was “fashionable,” according to McMonagle. (“You will never catch Bill Cosby running from anything. Under oath [during the 2005 deposition], he said, ‘I used Quaaludes three decades ago when it was fashionable to do so with consenting women.’”) I honestly couldn’t believe he said this without a blush. In what universe, when, where, has it ever been “fashionable” to knock women out and have sex with their unconscious bodies?

We can’t know what Cosby’s wife, Camille, thought about their private situation. But in his book “Love and Marriage,” published in 1989, Cosby described monogamy as an ideal state; he also spoke of Camille as the ideal woman, the paragon among women whom he’d found after a long search. The book makes an unconvincing case, I admit; there are more jokes about Camille refusing to let him touch her than there are paeans to her excellence; nevertheless, nominally at least, in public Cosby has forever celebrated monogamy as an ideal state.

In private he lived his life another way. That is absolutely not in question, not by anyone.

Again, I find it shocking that Cosby’s wife isn’t here at the Norristown, Pennsylvania, courthouse to support her husband, putatively so wronged, so cruelly victimized. An innocent-ish man, in short. It seems to me that anyone persuaded of his innocence would be here — you’d do this even for one of your exes, who was a jerk, but whom you’d once loved? If he were really facing real live prison for a crime he hadn’t committed?

What the defense is asking the Norristown jury to believe is that two women (among literal dozens, but who’s counting?) with a very similar story to tell about Bill Cosby — young women who trusted Cosby and viewed him as a mentor, and who claim they were then drugged and violated by him — are calculating liars looking to damage the star. Both these women have already been painted variously as liars, as angry ex-lovers, fame seekers, and worse. But what they are really saying, what we should focus on really, is that they are claiming that Cosby deliberately poisoned them.

Previously: The sleazy tactics of Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers, especially Brian McMonagle.

[photo: AP]