There is only one criminal case against Bill Cosby. It’s easy to forget that, given the multitudes of women — the total, to date, hovers around 60 — who have publicly accused him of sexual violence. There are a handful of civil suits as well, in states where the statutes of limitations ran out long before the #MeToo moment began, as women seek justice through the only means available: By suing Cosby for defamation after he called them liars in the press. But so far, there’s only one woman whose case could send Cosby to prison, and that is Andrea Constand.
Constand claims that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home in a Philadelphia suburb in 2004. Cosby stands accused of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and, if convicted, could spend ten years in prison.
Though it is Constand’s allegations, and hers alone, for which Cosby will again be tried, the prosecution hopes to have up to 19 of Cosby’s other accusers take the stand. These “prior bad acts” witnesses, if permitted to speak, will attest to Cosby’s pattern of misconduct. They could help prove that Cosby’s crime was also his signature: A drugged drink, an unconscious woman, an assault, repeat.
As the prosecution put it in Thursday’s filing, Cosby’s behavior is “distinctive and so nearly identical as to become the signature of the same perpetrator.”
Among the possible witnesses, as Billboard reports, are supermodel Janice Dickinson; “a woman who says Cosby drugged and assaulted her after she opened for him at a Denver club in 1980; and a talent agency secretary who says Cosby spiked her drinks and tried to force her to give him oral sex in 1965.” The prosecution selected these 19 women after interviewing 50 potential witnesses.
Before the initial trial in June, the prosecution asked that 13 of Cosby’s accusers be allowed to testify. Judge Steven T. O’Neill only permitted one: Kelly Johnson. Johnson came forward in 2015, saying Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 1996, when she was working as an assistant for his William Morris agent.
In court, Johnson gave a powerful, emotional testimony, composed but passionate. Through her work, Johnson spoke to Cosby on the phone regularly, she said, and he would chat with her about “my life and my career, what I wanted to do… He would call and ask me about my life, in a fatherly, favorite uncle, Dr. Huxtable kind of way.” The day of the alleged assault, she said, he invited her to lunch at his hotel, where he made her take a “large white pill” to “relax.”
She planned to “put the pill under my tongue, pretend to swallow it, then go to the restroom and spit it out.” But Cosby checked under her tongue, gave her a glass of wine, and she swallowed the pill. She soon felt like she was “underwater” and came to in bed next to Cosby. Her dress was pulled up from the bottom and down from the top; he was only wearing a bathrobe. Cosby put lotion in her hand and “made me touch his penis.”
“I felt like I wanted to say something, like I was trying to say something,” Johnson said. “I felt like I was crying.”
Cosby, she said, called William Morris the next day to complain about her being a “problem.” She was terminated several months later. She kept quiet about the assault for years “because I was humiliated and embarrassed. I was very afraid, because I had a secret about the biggest celebrity in the world at that time. And it was just me. It was just me. My word against his.”
Many of the details in Johnson’s story echo those in Constand’s. Constand, too, says she was meeting with Cosby as part of their ongoing mentor-mentee relationship, and that she intended to seek advice on her career. Constand, too, says Cosby offered her pills and told her he was going to “help you relax.” Constand, too, says after she took the pills (which Cosby maintains were Benadryl), her legs “felt rubbery and like jelly” and “everything was blurry and dizzy.” Constand, too, says she remembers Cosby “taking my right hand and placing my hand on his penis [which was] erect [and] exposed.” Constand, too, says she regained consciousness to find her clothes in disarray — her bra undone, her sweater bunched — and Cosby in a bathrobe. Constand, too, did not come forward immediately because “there was an element of fear.”
Judge O’Neill did not give an explanation for why Johnson’s testimony was admitted and the other dozen were not, so it’s not clear what determinations he’ll make for the retrial.
Constand reported the assault to the police in 2005, a year after she says it occurred. The district attorney investigated but declined to pursue charges. Amid a renewed wave of allegations against The Cosby Show star that began in late 2014 — and with only six months to go before the 12-year statute of limitations for aggravated indecent assault ran out under Pennsylvania law — the Montgomery Country district attorney reopened the investigation.
Cosby was charged in December 2015 and tried last June, but the jury could not reach a verdict and Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.
District attorney Kevin Steele — who ran against the D.A. who failed to pursue charges against Cosby back in 2005 on an “I’ll bring Cosby to justice” platform — immediately announced he would retry Cosby. The retrial, originally scheduled for last November, is slated to begin on April 2 in Norristown, PA.