The first witness in Bill Cosby’s trial said she held off for years going public with the story of how the comedian drugged and sexually abused her for fear no one would take her word against someone she viewed as “the biggest celebrity in the world.”
Cosby, 79, is not charged with assaulting the witness, Kelly Johnson, but prosecutors are using her testimony to show that he followed a pattern of drugging women and then assaulting them – including Andrea Constand, whose case is the basis of the criminal trial that began on Monday.
Prosecutors will continue building their case on Tuesday with testimony from Johnson’s mother if Judge Steven O’Neill allows her to take the stand after defense lawyers objected.
Johnson testified that in 1996 Cosby gave her a pill to “relax” her when she went to his Los Angeles hotel room for career advice. She said she became unconscious and when she came to, she was partially undressed and Cosby made her touch his genitals.
Johnson said she had waited years to accuse Cosby.
“I was humiliated and embarrassed,” she said. “I was very afraid because I had a secret about the biggest celebrity in the world at that time. It was just me and my word against his.”
More than 50 women have accused Cosby – once beloved by American audiences as the dad in the long-running TV hit “The Cosby Show” – of sexually assaulting them in a series of attacks dating to the 1960s.
Constand’s is the only one of those cases that is not too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution, leaving the question of whether Cosby will be found guilty of sex crimes hanging primarily on her word. Constand says Cosby sexually assaulted her in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
Pennsylvania prosecutors brought criminal charges against Cosby in late 2015, just days before the statute of limitations was to run out. Cosby has repeatedly denied all criminal wrongdoing, describing his encounter with Constand as consensual.
Constand and Johnson are the only Cosby accusers expected to testify during the two-week trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Cosby, whose attorneys said is legally blind, is not expected to testify. Prosecutors, however, said they will introduce as evidence his words in a 2005 deposition related to the Constand case, when he admitted obtaining the sedative Quaaludes for women and also to giving Constand Benadryl.
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle said he welcomed that evidence.
“Mr. Cosby has never, ever under oath run from what happened that night,” McMonagle said on Monday. “At no point in time did he ever say anything to anybody that this young woman was incapacitated in any way.”
(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)