Cosby lawyers portray accuser as 'con artist' seeking payout

NORRISTOWN, Pa., April 10 (Reuters) - Bill Cosby's defense lawyer told a jury on Tuesday that accuser Andrea Constand was a "con artist" out to extort money from the famed comedian, saying she concocted a false story of sexual assault to pay for her education and set up a business.

"She was madly in love with his fame and money. She's now a multimillionaire because she pulled it off," defense attorney Thomas Mesereau said of Andrea Constand, 44, who won a $3.4 million settlement from Cosby in a civil lawsuit in 2006.

The 80-year-old entertainer, once known as the wise and witty father in the 1980s television hit "The Cosby Show," is facing his second trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting Constand in 2004. Last year his first trial ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

Some 50 women have accused Cosby of assault, many of them alleging, as Constand did, that he drugged them. All the accusations other than Constand's were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

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Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying any sexual contact was consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

Unlike in the first trial, jurors in this case were told Cosby agreed to the $3.4 million settlement in 2006. Both sides had wanted to divulge the payout. Prosecutors could seek to portray it as an admission of guilt, while defense lawyers could argue it bolsters their cases that Constand was seeking a big payout.

The defense was also allowed in this trial to present evidence that Constand told a friend, Margo Jackson, in 2004 it would be easy to set up a celebrity on a fictitious sexual assault charge.

In opening arguments on Tuesday, Mesereau said Cosby was lonely and vulnerable at the time, having never recovered from the 1997 murder of his son, Ennis, by a street punk in Los Angeles. He was also traumatized by an unsuccessful extortion attempt by a young woman who claimed to be his daughter and demanded $40 million.

See photos of Andrea Constand:

Even after the alleged assault in January 2004, Constand called Cosby as many as 60 times and visited his home alone, said Mesereau, who successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges.

"We welcome the opportunity for truth to get out," Mesereau said. "Finally, Mr. Cosby gets his day in court. It is brutal for him. He's blind. He's 80 years old." (Reporting by David DeKok; Writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Jonathan Oatis)