NORRISTOWN, PA—One witness couldn’t stop sobbing.
From the moment she swore to tell the whole truth, to the point halfway through when she needed a break to try and compose herself, until—when she was finally released from the stand—she broke down in the hallway.
But she managed to catch her breath long enough to look right at the defendant and say, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
The witness that followed, unfazed by the famous defense attorney, called out her cross-examiner for rolling his eyes at her.
And the fourth accuser to testify, supermodel Janice Dickinson, cracked wry, self-deprecating jokes about her refusal to fly economy and her “hideous vocal range” before vividly describing how Cosby gave her a pill and, after she was incapacitated, raped her in his hotel room.
“I remember his breath,” Dickinson said. “I remember the taste of his kiss. It smelled like cigars and espresso. I remember, here was America’s dad on top of me, and a happily married man of five children, and I just remember thinking how wrong it was. How very, very wrong it was.”
Five of the 19 accusers that the prosecution hoped would testify, known as prior bad acts witnesses, will be allowed to take the stand at the criminal trial of Bill Cosby. Prosecutors aim to demonstrate that the experiences of these five women are part of a pattern, that Cosby hit the same beats every time. That there was nothing consensual about these encounters he carefully choreographed.
“I remember, here was America’s dad on top of me, and a happily married man of five children, and I just remember thinking how wrong it was. How very, very wrong it was.”
And during the trial, those commonalities have emerged: Each woman describes taking a drink or a pill from Cosby, feeling dizzy shortly thereafter, then being in a state of shock, unable to move, while Cosby sexually assaulted them. Many remember waking up the following morning unsure as to how they arrived at the state in which they found themselves: With clothes in disarray or removed, feeling sore, or sticky—or both. They all refer to the other Cosby accusers as brave, many citing the reports of other women—and the desire to support those women—as their inspiration for speaking out.
That’s not to say that their testimonies are identical. Even as their stories follow a similar pattern, their respective individuality comes through in their tone, their bearing, and their attitude about the trauma they say they’ve endured.
Heidi Thomas sounded almost chipper on the stand, detailing an idyllic childhood and a happily-ever-after adulthood in which Cosby was some kind of nightmarish intermission in an otherwise dreamy existence. Save for “snapshots” of the alleged assault, her memory of the encounter is a blank.
Chelan Lasha, whose body shook as she cried uncontrollably, struggled to keep her voice steady even as she spelled her last name for the court. She said that, after charming her grandparents, with whom Lasha lived, and promising to mentor the bright, recent high school graduate, Cosby drugged and violated her in his hotel suite.
Asked what was going through her mind during the assault, Lasha wailed, “Dr. Huxtable, what are you doing? You said you were going to help me. What are you doing to me?”
Dickinson’s memory of the assault is crisp, as is her recollection of how she felt when she confronted Cosby the following morning. “I wanted to hit him. I wanted to punch him in the face. I remember feeling anger, disgust, feeling humiliated. Ashamed.”
One thing all these women share does more for Cosby’s case than the prosecution’s: Inconsistencies in their accounts.
Janice Baker-Kinney was frank about her history—her experiments with drugs in the 1970s, her bout with alcoholism—and how she still blames herself for accepting two pills from Cosby the night she says he sexually assaulted her. She used the word “stupid” several times, always in reference to herself.
She said trusted Cosby enough to take two pills from him (she remembered he was “doing pudding commercials or whatever” at the time) and that, not long after swallowing the drugs, she fell face-first into a backgammon table. When she woke up the next morning, naked with something sticky between her legs, she said, “I apologized to Mr. Cosby, because I was so mortified.”
As for the aforementioned eye roll, it came when Baker-Kinney said that the only time she’d met Andrea Constand was when she stayed, by chance, a the home of a mutual friend in Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March in 2017. Constand came by for an hour, Baker-Kinney said, and “we never, ever, ever discussed this case.”
But there’s one thing all these women have in common that might hearten Cosby’s defense attorneys: Inconsistencies in their accounts.
The defense grilled the women on the considerable differences between what they told friends and family and what they told detectives; between the police reports and the press releases. Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau seemed to hold particular disdain for any communication that passed through the office of Gloria Allred who, in late 2014, said Cosby should put $100 million in a fund for his accusers and allow a panel of retired judges to rule on their claims.
In Dickinson’s case, the narrative she tells about her time with Cosby in her 2002 memoir No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel, does not mention rape—or even sex—with Cosby at all. “You told a tale to this jury today that’s completely different from what you told in this book,” Mesereau said, suggesting Dickinson “lied to get a paycheck” for the memoir.
But the women do have explanations for these discrepancies.
Dickinson says she told her ghostwriter, Pablo Fenjves, and her publisher, Judith Regan, “exactly what happened to me” but was advised by both not to write about the rape. “They said it would never get past Cosby’s legal team. He’s a powerful guy. And they told me, ‘He could ruin your career.’ And I knew that.”
“I wanted to punch him in the face. I remember feeling anger, disgust, feeling humiliated. Ashamed.”
Fenjves confirmed Dickinson’s account in InTouch back in 2014: “I told her that we wouldn’t be able to use any of it. I knew the lawyers at HarperCollins weren’t going to risk it. ‘It’ll be your word against his,’ I told her. ‘It doesn’t matter that every word is true. He’s a powerful man, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect himself.'”
Baker-Kinney said the “blurb” that appeared beneath her photograph in New York Magazine — a point of contention with Cosby’s defense — was derived from an interview she gave after she had released her lengthier statement with Gloria Allred. Her full statement has Cosby “touching my stomach and genital area,” while the New York piece says only “he was touching my stomach.” (She told Mesereau to direct his questions about the editing process to the New York editors.)
Lasha said the reason her press release, dictated to Allred, contains more detail than her police statement, was due to the fact that the male Los Angeles Police Department officers who interviewed her at her home in 2014 instructed her “to make it as short as possible.”
“They didn’t even want to listen to me at that time,” she said of the officers. She went on to detail their promise to follow up with her and pass her case along to the Las Vegas Police Department. These promises, she says, went unkept. “The officer acted like he didn’t believe what I was saying in the first place.”
As for Allred and the attention she invites, Lasha and Baker-Kinney both said they had neither paid nor been paid by her. Baker-Kinney said she had “no clue” about the $100 million fund; Lasha, asked about whether she was filmed for the new Netflix documentary Seeing Allred, replied, “I don’t even have Netflix.”
And Dickinson, the only person in the courtroom whose fame might rival Cosby’s, dismissed Mesereau’s accusation that she was “looking for publicity” from the trial. “I don’t need publicity from this.”