Bill Cosby held a mostly blank expression on Saturday morning when Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial in the high-profile criminal case against the star on three felony charges of aggravated sexual assault.
And the 79-year-old comedian maintained that demeanor on the steps of the courthouse in Norristown, Penn., minutes later — when members of his team addressed the media to declare victory despite the promise of a retrial by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
Cosby himself did not address the small crowd — and his manner was far from the jokey one he had had interacting with supporters at the courthouse over the previous two weeks, when he would often repeat the “Hey, hey, hey” greeting that had become a catchphrase in his ’70s animated series “Fat Albert.”
But he did smile and raise his fist briefly before leaving the courthouse grounds. He remains free on bail until the next trial is scheduled.
As Cosby exited the courthouse building, he was greeted by a handful of supporters on the street who chanted, “We love Bill!” — but reporters vastly outnumbered the fans who continued to voice their support even as the number of women accusing the star of misconduct has risen to more than 60.
“Why did the [accusers] wait so long?” asked one woman, who held a manila folder with “We <3 Bill Cosby” scrawled in Sharpie.
Also standing outside the courthouse were several supporters of Cosby accuser Andrea Constand, whose 2004 sexual encounter with the star was the basis of the prosecution’s case.
“I’ve been there as her support person and an advocate for assault survivors all around the country,” Philadelphia trauma therapist Shari Botwin told The Wrap.
Botwin, who said she attended four days of the trial, returned to the courthouse on Saturday with her toddler son. “I’m just there to affirm what they’re doing and the importance of what they’re doing.”
She found it “heartbreaking” that the jury was hung after five days of deliberations, but praised prosecutor Steele’s “determination to get this into trial.”
North Philadelphia native and activist Bird Milliken, who said she attended every other day of the trial, on Saturday held a sign that read “Perseverance to All Survivors.”
“My presence here was to be a voice for survivors,” she told TheWrap. “No matter what happens with the verdict, this is about empowering those who have been victimized, to have a voice.”
She also offered some advice to Steele as he prepares for to retry the case: “He better put his sweatband on because he has a lot of work to do.”