'You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?' Three accusers confront comic icon at trial
Heidi Thomas, a music teacher from Colorado, spent nearly three hours on the witness stand over two days.
One said she came to testify because "I want to see a serial rapist convicted."
Another, after recounting alleged abuse three decades ago, interrupted the judge to turn toward the 80-year-old entertainer and say, "You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?"
A third lashed out at a defense lawyer: "If you want to twist my words around to say that I was never raped, then you are incorrect, sir."
Bill Cosby is not on trial for sexually assaulting any of them, but the three women called to the witness stand Wednesday took full advantage of their chance to finally confront him across a courtroom.
Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha, and Janice Baker-Kinney all said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them in the 1980s.
The statute of limitations on their allegations expired long ago. But it was their emotional statements, delivered under oath and in front of dozens of reporters in the Norristown courtroom, that drew perhaps the most attention – and legal wrangling.
Cosby's lawyers twice during the testimony asked Judge Steven T. O'Neill to declare a mistrial, citing the witness outbursts. He declined.
Before the retrial ends, two more accusers – in addition to Andrea Constand, whom Cosby is charged with drugging and assaulting – will have their own moments to air sexual misconduct claims against the entertainer once known and trusted as "America's Dad."
Lasha, of Palmdale, Calif., was tearful from the moment she took the stand and stated her name. Letting out loud sobs between words, she said she was 17 and an aspiring model when she met Cosby in 1986. He visited her grandparents' home in Las Vegas, called her and her grandmother on the phone, and eventually invited her to the Elvis Presley Suite at the Las Vegas Hilton to pose for modeling photos.
She had a cold that day, Lasha said, and after a photographer took pictures of her, Cosby offered her what he said was an antihistamine, along with a shot of amaretto. He told her it would help with her cough, she said, and she took it "because I trusted him."
She said she became woozy and Cosby helped her to a bed, where he lay next to her, grabbed her breasts, humped her and grunted. She said she felt something warm hit her leg and was unable to speak.
"Dr. Huxtable wouldn't do this," Lasha recalled thinking, a reference to the sitcom character Cosby made famous. "You said you were going to help me. What are you doing to me?"
When Cosby woke her up later, she said, she was undressed. She said she left the hotel and went to her high school guidance counselor's house to tell her what happened.
Lasha often grew emotional during her nearly three hours on the stand. At one point, she sobbed so loudly while O'Neill addressed an issue with the lawyers that the judge stopped to remind jurors that a witness' emotions and demeanor should not be considered evidence.
Cosby sat quietly throughout her testimony, at times leaning back in his chair and resting his hand on his chin. When Lasha interrupted the judge to address him directly — asking "You remember, don't you, Mr. Cosby?" — the defendant smiled slightly.
Lasha's account came after Thomas, 58, a music teacher from Colorado, finished telling jurors about the 1984 trip to Reno, Nev., where she says Cosby drugged and assaulted her during an acting lesson. But unlike Lasha, Thomas smiled and remained upbeat and composed on the witness stand — even as she described him as a "serial rapist."
Thomas said she decided to publicly air her allegations against Cosby in January 2015, as other women were sharing their own accusations.
"I hadn't told anybody anything," she said. "And when I determined that these women were not being believed, I wanted to support them."
She also later sent a Facebook message to Constand, telling her that she had her back.
Asked about that message Wednesday, Thomas said simply: "I never would have believed I would be here."
Wednesday's testimony concluded with Baker-Kinney, a 60-year-old California resident who told jurors that she was working as a bartender at Harrah's Casino in Reno in the early 1980s when she went with a friend to visit Cosby at a nearby home. He gave her a Quaalude, which she said she took willingly because she had taken one before at parties. He then gave her a second pill and told her that "it will be OK," she said.
Baker-Kinney said she blacked out while playing backgammon with Cosby, and awoke on the couch and heard her friend leaving. Her pants and shirt were unbuttoned, she said, and Cosby sat and groped her on the couch before taking her upstairs.
She said her next memory is waking up the following morning in bed with Cosby, and they were both naked.
"There was a sticky wetness between my legs and it felt like that I had had sex the night before," she said.
Cosby's lawyers did their best to challenge the stories of all three women: They questioned Lasha about a 2007 conviction for making a false report to police, interrogated Thomas about the many media interviews she gave in the last few years, and pressed Baker-Kinney about her history of drug use and alcoholism.
Baker-Kinney's exchange with Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau grew heated when he asked why she had not realized she was raped by Cosby until other accusers came forward. She accused him of trying to "twist my words." She also said she always blamed herself for taking pills from Cosby.
"It still takes me everything within my being to say the words, 'I was raped,'" she said, "because I still carry the guilt. Back then, there was no acquaintance rape or date rape or anything like that. I didn't have that verbiage."
She is expected to return to the stand Thursday morning.
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