UPDATED: NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Three women. A sip of wine or a pill or two. And then it all goes haywire.
That, in sum, is the testimony so far in the sexual assault retrial of Bill Cosby, which will enter its fourth day on Thursday with more of the same kind of testimony. Cosby’s first trial ended in June when another jury deadlocked on charges that he drugged and molested Andrea Constand, then the operations manager of Temple University’s women’s basketball team.
This time around, prosecutors are expected to call a total of five other women who say they were molested by Cosby. The prosecution is hoping to support the forthcoming testimony of Constand by showing a pattern of behavior by the once-beloved entertainer. Two more women are expected to testify before Constand takes the stand.
Cosby, who is now 80, has pleaded not guilty and contends that the sexual encounter with Constand was consensual.
In the most emotional testimony so far, a California woman sobbed repeatedly Wednesday as she testified that the entertainer promised to help with her aspiring modeling and acting career – and then gave her a blue pill and proceeded to molest her back in 1986.
“I trusted him,” said Chelan Lasha, who said she was 17 at the time and had just graduated from high school.
Lasha lashed out verbally at Cosby during a break, prompting Judge Steven T. O’Neill to admonish her outside the presence of the jury to only answer questions. The judge denied a motion for a mistrial by defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss, who told the judge it sounded like Lasha said, “you knew what you did, Mr. Cosby.”
Lasha said that she became whoozy and bewildered after she took the blue pill Cosby offered her and she ended up in bed, thinking to herself about the lovable Cliff Huxtable – the character Cosby played on TV – and wondering what was happening to her.
“Why are you doing this to me? You are supposed to help me be successful,” she tearfully recalled thinking.
The next witness, Janice Baker-Kinney, who now lives north of San Francisco, said she went with a friend to a pizza party at a house where Cosby was staying near Reno in 1982 and accepted what she believed were two Quaaludes from Cosby. Before she knew it, she said, she felt whoozy and ended up naked in bed with Cosby.
When she woke up, she said, there was evidence that something had happened. “There was sticky wetness between my legs and it felt like I had had sex,” she told the jury.
She said it took her years to come to terms with what happened, at first believing it was her fault because she never should have taken the two pills.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Tom Mesereau, Baker-Kinney said it took a long time for her to call what happened to her rape.
“It still takes me everything….to say I was raped because I still carry the guilt,” she testified.
Baker-Kinney acknowledged that she had met Constand but said they never discussed the Cosby case. “I have never ever, ever, ever spoken to her about this case, I promise you that,” she told the jury.
The third woman, a Colorado music teacher, was perhaps most sanguine about what she said happened back in 1984. She said it took her years to deal with it, but she did move on.
That woman, Heidi Thomas, testified that she was sexually assaulted by Cosby in a house near Reno where Cosby was staying. He gave her a glass of wine, she said, and then she quickly became incapacitated. And when she awoke, she said, Cosby was “forcing himself” into her mouth.
Thomas acknowledged that she had reached out to Constand with a Facebook message of support.
“I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” testified Thomas.
Her remark prompted O’Neill to give a cautionary instruction to the jury that Cosby is not charged with assaulting any other women. Thomas acknowledged sending the Facebook message that “I’ve got your back, sister” to Constand. “I just wanted her to know that with everything that was being said about her and us that there was somebody out there who knew she was telling the truth,” said Thomas under questioning by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
More than 50 women have made such accusations about the entertainer – but O’Neill has allowed only five others to testify. And Constand is the only woman whose allegation has led to criminal charges.
Mesereau told jurors to be wary of the testimony of other women.
“It’s called prosecution by distraction,” Mesereau told the jurors in his opening address. “When you don’t have a case, you’ve got to fill the time with something else. Remember my words when you hear these people testify.”