Few outside of the courtroom heard all the evidence that sent Bill Cosby to prison in 2018, capping a shocking downfall that began in 2005 with a woman’s public allegation that he’d drugged and sexually assaulted her, the first of more than 80 similar claims to follow.
From the start, reporter Nicole Weisensee Egan was on the story. The former PEOPLE senior staff writer’s 2019 book Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad chronicled the stop-and-start prosecution that put the disgraced comic and TV icon behind bars for three to 10 years.
That reporting informs a new podcast, Chasing Cosby, from the Los Angeles Times and executive produced by Egan, that lets Cosby’s initial accuser, Andrea Constand, and 13 other women share their experiences. The six-part podcast debuts with two episodes Tuesday, with new episodes dropping each week thereafter.
“This is a way for people to just hear from the survivors themselves, and just by hearing it instead of seeing it, you can judge for yourself whether you believe them,” Egan tells PEOPLE. “It was much more powerful than I thought it would be.”
Cosby has maintained his innocence in the case, and on Thursday appealed his conviction to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court after it was unanimously upheld by the lower state Superior Court, reports The New York Times.
Constand’s 2004 assault by Cosby at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, mansion was the only one to result in criminal charges against him. At the time, Constand was a staff member at Temple University who said she considered Cosby, a prominent Temple alum, as a mentor.
Two juries eventually heard Constand’s claims, along with prosecutors’ portrayal of Cosby as a serial sexual predator who deceived people with his public persona. In 2017 the first jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. The second jury in 2018 heard not only from Constand, but also from five other accusers whose testimony illustrated Cosby’s alleged pattern of behavior as laid out by the prosecution.
Other women were prevented from seeking charges against him because the statute of limitations on their claims had expired. The podcast reveals that many have since worked to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual assault claims in three states.
It also allows Constand, who granted no interviews prior to the verdict, to talk about her work launching a nonprofit foundation, Hope, Healing and Transformation, to aid other survivors of sexual assault. “She’s now taking a very painful chapter of her life and turning it into a force for good,” Egan tells PEOPLE.
Podcast listeners also will hear the phone calls between Cosby and Constand’s mother, previously played only in court, made and recorded after Constand tearfully first revealed the attack to her mother.
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Constand’s claim in 2005 was initially investigated by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. But that investigation was abruptly dropped, only to be resurfaced years later by a newly elected D.A. after Cosby’s deposition in a civil suit he’d settled against Constand in 2006 was made public. In that deposition, Cosby admitted giving Quaaludes to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
“People will be surprised to learn how much evidence there was against Cosby in 2005 when the DA decided not to charge him; that there were 14 women total back then accusing him; that the DA shot down the investigation without telling his own detectives, who had just come up with a new set of leads to follow up on that very morning,” says Egan.
“Podcasts reach an audience that books and even TV doesn’t and done well, I think they’re an amazing storytelling medium,” she says. “There were no cameras in the courtroom for either Cosby trial, so it’s also an opportunity for the public to hear directly from the survivors themselves as well as the major players in the case — the prosecutors, the jurors, etc.”
“So many people base their opinions about the case on emotion,” says Egan. Her hope for the podcast, she says, is that “it encourages people to seek out more information, to seek out facts.”
The Chasing Cosby podcast can be heard on Apple, Spotify and other outlets where podcasts are available.