Three accusers confronted comedian Bill Cosby in court on Wednesday – with one calling him a “serial rapist” and another asking him through her tears: “You remember, don’t you, Mr Cosby?”
The women’s charged rhetoric prompted several mistrial requests from Cosby’s lawyers — which were denied — as prosecutors built their case that Cosby was one of Hollywood’s biggest predators long before he met Andrea Constand, the chief accuser in his sexual assault retrial.
Now well into middle age, the accusers spoke of entering Cosby’s orbit as starstruck young women seeking career help or, in the case of a casino bartender from Reno, Nevada, simply looking for a fun time.
All of them testified they ended up unconscious from the pills or alcohol he gave them, unable to say no or resist as he had his way with them.
“I was raped,” declared former bartender Janice Baker-Kinney, who was 24 when she says Cosby gave her pills and had sex with her in 1982.
Chelan Lasha weeps as she returns to the courtroom (Dominick Reuter/Pool Photo via AP)
Cosby’s lawyers say Ms Baker-Kinney, who now works as a stage manager on pro sports broadcasts in the San Francisco area, took the drug willingly.
Another accuser, sobbing uncontrollably as she testified, told jurors she got to know Cosby through a family connection as a 17-year-old aspiring model and actress.
Chelan Lasha said Cosby gave her a little blue pill he described as an antihistamine to help her get over a cold, along with two shots of amaretto “to help break up the cough”.
The combination immobilised her and rendered her unable to speak, and Cosby then assaulted her, touching her breast and rubbing himself against her leg, she said.
Turning to Cosby, she made the remark that suggested he remembered the encounter.
Cosby, who portrayed kindly Dr Cliff Huxtable on his hit TV comedy “The Cosby Show”, turned away and smiled slightly.
Ms Lasha, Ms Baker-Kinney and a third woman who also testified, Heidi Thomas, are among five additional accusers whom prosecutors plan to call to make the case that Cosby, once revered as “America’s Dad”, was a Hollywood predator who is only now facing a reckoning after allegedly assaulting Ms Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
The defence claim Ms Constand is a “con artist” who preyed on Cosby’s vulnerability after the 1997 killing of his son, Ennis, and then framed him to score a big payday via a 3.4 million dollar (£2.4 million) civil settlement.
Heidi Thomas testified against actor and comedian Bill Cosby (Dominick Reuter/Pool Photo via AP)
They have urged jurors to ignore the other accusers, calling their allegations irrelevant to the charges involving Ms Constand, who turned 45 on Wednesday.
Outside court, Cosby spokeswoman Ebonee Benson called the testimony from prior accusers a “prosecution by distraction”.
“When you don’t have a case, you’ll fill the case with something else,” she said. “Once the jury hears the evidence of the case we are here for, they will render a verdict of not guilty.”
Ms Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball administrator, alleges Cosby gave her pills and then molested her. He says the encounter was consensual.
His first trial last year ended in a hung jury.
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