NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – The first witness in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial said on Monday that the comedian insisted on giving her a white pill to help her “relax” and that she later lost consciousness and was partially clothed when she awoke.
Prosecutors questioned Kelly Johnson about the incident, which took place in a Los Angeles hotel in 1996, to establish a pattern of Cosby’s behavior that led to an alleged assault on Andrea Constand eight years later.
Constand is one of dozens of women who have accused the one-time entertainment giant of sex assault but hers is the only case recent enough to be subject to criminal prosecution.
Johnson, who at the time of the 1996 incident worked for the agent who arranged Cosby’s personal appearances, told the jury that she lost consciousness after taking the pill and woke up semi-clothed in bed with Cosby.
Johnson cried as she testified that her dress was pulled up from the bottom and pulled down from the top and that Cosby forced her to put lotion on her hand and touch his genitals.
Cosby, 79, has denied wrongdoing, saying his encounter with Constand was consensual. He also denies the accusations of more than 50 women who say he assaulted them.
Cosby, once known as “America’s dad” for his role as Heathcliff Huxtable on the 1980s hit TV series “The Cosby Show,” walked into the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas outside Philadelphia on the arm of Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played one of his daughters, the pigtailed Rudy Huxtable, on the show.
His wife and business manager, Camille Cosby, was not seen in court on Monday.
Johnson’s emotional testimony, which came on the trial’s first day in Norristown, Pennsylvania, is intended to convince jurors that the alleged attack on Constand in 2004 at Cosby’s suburban Philadelphia was part of a pattern. It is the only case other than Constand’s that the jury will hear testimony about.
Both women say they met with Cosby to seek his career advice. Constand was employed at Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater.
Constand also is expected to testify that Cosby told her the pills he offered would help her “relax” before sexually abusing her at his home in suburban Philadelphia, said Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden.
Johnson said she felt “underwater” after taking the pill and could not object.
“I was trying to say something,” she said. “But I don’t know if I was actually speaking.”
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle said Cosby is the victim of false accusations. He pointed out that Constand’s initial allegations were investigated in 2005 and found to be insufficient at that time.
“Today I get a chance, with your help, to right a wrong,” he told jurors.
McMonagle took aim at Constand’s credibility, focusing on inconsistencies in her accounts to police in 2005.
Constand, who did not report the alleged assault for nearly a year, said she had not maintained contact with Cosby after the incident. In fact, McMonagle said, she called him 53 times.
McMonagle also suggested that Johnson, who first came forward publicly in 2015, did so in the hopes of seeking civil damages.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)