NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The second day of Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial here opened with prosecutors seeking to bolster the trial's secondary star witness whose testimony that she was drugged and molested by Cosby was undermined on cross-examination by some discrepancies in her account.
Judge Steven O'Neill allowed prosecutors to call the mother and ex-lawyer of Kelly Johnson, a former employee of Cosby's agent, who testified Monday that she was drugged and assaulted by Cosby, 79, in a bungalow at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles in 1996 — even though she said under oath in the past that their encounter happened in 1991.
Johnson's mother, Patrice Sewell, told the jury on Tuesday that her daughter called her distraught in 1996, fearing Cosby was trying to get her fired from her job. She said her daughter later told her she woke up next to Cosby in bed with her clothes undone — an account that tallied with what Johnson testified about on Monday.
“She said Mr. Cosby asked her to meet her at the Bel-Air Hotel to talk about her career.…And when she went to the hotel she was directed to (a bungalow),” Sewell testified. When she arrived, Cosby appeared in slippers and a robe, she said.
“He said you don’t have anything to be nervous about. Then he offered her a drink. And said she should take a pill...She tried to refuse, and she put it under her tongue. He asked her to raise her tongue.”
Johnson didn’t tell police about the encounter at the time because she wanted to avoid the shame and humiliation directed toward victims of sexual assault who go public, Sewell said.
Joseph Miller, a worker's compensation lawyer who represented Johnson, says he was surprised by "things of a sexual nature" Johnson recounted during her 1996 deposition for her claim that she'd developed debilitating stress from her secretarial job at Cosby's agency.
“He had exposed himself to her, taken some of her clothing off,” Miller said on the stand. Cosby “wanted her to fondle him and she didn’t want to do that...She cried several times during the deposition, I remember she was tearful during the session.”
During cross-examination, defense attorneys attempted to poke holes in Sewell’s account regarding why Johnson left her job at the agency, using lawyers' notes taken during Johnson's deposition because the document itself could not be found. Miller testified that he and his business partner decided not to create a transcript of the deposition due to the sensitive nature of the testimony.
Defense lawyers tried to establish that Johnson did not leave her job because of an incident with Cosby.
“We ended up settling the case for a lump sum of money (about $10,000), that was to be paid to Ms. Johnson by the William Morris agency," Miller said.
A Toronto police detective also testified Tuesday, telling the jury that Constand (she is from Toronto and moved back there after the Cosby encounter) told him she had been drugged by Cosby at his home after they had been out to dinner with friends in 2004.
“They were alone and she said Mr. Cosby gave her a couple of pills to help her relax,” said Det. Dave Mason of Durham Regional Police, who is trained in sexual assault investigations.“She said her legs felt like jelly...I remember her being a little embarrassed as she told the story.”
On cross-examination, lead defense attorney Brian McMonagle asked Mason if Constand told him she had never been alone with Cosby prior to that night. That is correct, Mason said.
In fact, the defense contended, Cosby and Constand had been alone twice before in homes in the Philadelphia area and in Connecticut.
Cosby is being tried on three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault stemming from an encounter with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004 at his nearby estate in suburban Philadelphia.
Constand, 44, is the star witness, expected to take the stand this week to recount in public for the first time what she says happened more than 13 years ago after she met Cosby alone at his home to discuss her career ambitions. He says their encounter was consensual. She says he drugged her — leaving her nearly paralyzed — and then molested her.
Constand's testimony is crucial because there is no contemporaneous forensic evidence. She waited a year before reporting the encounter to authorities, and prosecutors at the time declined to press charges then due to lack of evidence.
Johnson's testimony is crucial, too. She is one of the five-dozen women who have come forward since October 2014 to accuse Cosby of drugging and/or raping them in episodes dating back to the mid-1960s.
But she is the only other accuser Judge O'Neill allowed to testify against Cosby at this trial. Prosecutors called her to help demonstrate to the jury that Cosby allegedly followed a pattern of "prior bad acts." Johnson's story is similar in details to what Constand says happened to her.
On cross-examination on Monday, McMonagle sharply questioned why Johnson’s testimony at the trial differed from an under-oath deposition she had given in 1996 in which she said the alleged assault took place in 1991, not in 1996. Why should the jury trust her recollection in 2017, he asked.
On Tuesday, Cosby arrived at the Montgomery County courthouse with his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt. Neither his wife of more than 60 years, Camille, nor any of their four daughters were with him. On Monday, he was accompanied by his former TV daughter, Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy on The Cosby Show.
Another crucial factor at the trial will be Cosby's own words in a deposition he gave for the civil suit Constand filed against him in 2005. That suit was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2006 and sealed, but parts of the deposition was released by a judge in the summer of 2015 on a motion by the Associated Press. In it, Cosby acknowledged acquiring drugs — quaaludes — to give to women he sought for sex, thus bolstering his accusers' argument that he followed a pattern in his sexual behavior with women.
District Attorney Kevin Steele, who promised to pursue Cosby when he ran for election in 2015, cited the deposition as new evidence for why he filed charges against Cosby a few weeks before Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for sex crimes was due to expire.
Cosby's repeated efforts to get the charges thrown out over the last 18 months, and to block the use of his deposition testimony, failed under Judge O'Neill's rulings.