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Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Trial Day 2: Witnesses Describe Alleged 1996 Attack

Variety logo Variety 6/6/2017 Emilie Lounsberry
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NORRISTOWN, Pa. – The criminal trial of legendary entertainer Bill Cosby remained focused Tuesday — not on the charges he faces for the alleged 2004 sexual assault of a woman at his home near Philadelphia — but on a similar incident that allegedly took place in Los Angeles back in 1996.

Patrice Sewell, the mother of the alleged Southern California victim, testified this morning that her daughter told her in 1996 about an incident she said had recently taken place at the Bel Air Hotel, where Cosby had been staying in a bungalow. Sewell testified that after inviting her daughter to lunch, the young woman said Cosby had given her a pill and watched to ensure that she swallowed it.

“She said that she woke up and she was in bed and he was in the bed, and her clothes were disheveled,” Sewell told the jury, which was selected last month in Pittsburgh and is being sequestered during what is expected to be a two-week trial.

Another witness, lawyer Joseph Miller, testified that he had represented the alleged victim’s employer, the William Morris Agency, where she had worked for Cosby’s agent and filed a workers compensation claim against the agency after she stopped working there.

Miller testified that he recalled the woman mentioning Cosby during a deposition in the workers compensation case — “and that was a complete surprise.” He recalled that the woman had said that Cosby gave her a pill, that “she had gotten semi-unconscious” and that “he had exposed himself to her.”

Miller quoted her as having said that Cosby “had taken out his penis … and wanted her to fondle him, and she didn’t want to do that. That, I do remember.”

Prosecutors hope the testimony will back up what the former California woman told the jury on Monday: that Cosby gave her a large white pill, watched to make sure she swallowed it and that eventually, he “made me touch his penis.”

Cosby, 79, is not charged with any crime for that alleged incident, and the woman’s testimony is intended to merely set the courtroom stage for the testimony of Andrea Constand, a former basketball manager at Temple University in Philadelphia whose sexual assault accusation is the focus of the ongoing criminal trial, now in its second day here in suburban Philadelphia.

Constand is just one of some 60 women who have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them – but she is the only woman whose claim is the focus of a criminal trial.

She is expected to take the stand later this week as the prosecution’s star witness, and the outcome of the trial will hinge on her credibility.

Though he was known as “America’s Dad” from his years as the lovable and funny Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, which aired from 1984 to 1992, his image crashed in 2014 as the women went public with accusations that the star had slipped them sedatives and then sexually assaulted them.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He has pleaded not guilty and said the incident with Constand was consensual. His lawyers have carefully cross-examined all three witnesses, hoping to persuade the jury that Cosby is not guilty. If convicted, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison.

The alleged assault that sparked the charges took place in early 2004 after Cosby invited Constand to his home in Elkins Park, just outside Philadelphia, to discuss her career plans.  The criminal complaint filed in December 2015 — shortly before the statute of limitations was due to expire — stated that Constand told Cosby she felt “drained” and “emotionally occupied” and had been missing sleep. He responded by giving her three blue pills that he told her “will make you feel good,” according to the complaint, and claimed they were herbal.

But Constand soon reported feeling dizzy, and Cosby led her to a couch, where, prosecutor Kristen Feden said, he touched her breasts and “grabbed her limp hand and placed it on his penis” so that he could “masturbate himself.”

His lawyer, Brian McMonagle, said that Constand had changed her version of what happened so often that the previous district attorney here had decided not to bring charges. And he said that Constand hardly shied away from the star – even after she said he assaulted her.

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