Norristown (United States) (AFP) – Bill Cosby’s sexual misconduct retrial heard dramatic testimony Wednesday from two accusers who allege the disgraced megastar assaulted them in the 1980s and the judge slap down a defense request for a mistrial.
The now frail and isolated 80-year-old could spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, 44, at his Philadelphia home in 2004.
The first of five other accusers allowed to testify said Wednesday she wanted to see the “serial rapist convicted.”
The second, who tearfully told of being drugged and assaulted by the actor as a teenager, remarked: “You remember, don’t you, Mr Cosby?” — speaking out of turn and cutting through the judge’s remarks.
The defense immediately called for a mistrial, a request that Judge Steven O’Neill rejected. The judge reminded jurors that Cosby is on trial only for alleged aggravated assault against Constand.
The case has besmirched the legacy of the actor adored by millions as “America’s Dad” for his role as lovable father and obstetrician Cliff Huxtable on the hit 1984-92 television series “The Cosby Show.”
Sixty women now accuse the Emmy-winner of being a serial predator, alleging that he drugged and assaulted them over a span of 40 years.
Cosby’s first trial in Norristown, a Philadelphia suburb, ended in a hung jury in June last year, with a sequestered panel hopelessly deadlocked after six days of testimony and 52 hours of deliberations.
The judge’s admission of testimony from five additional accusers is believed to be the single biggest challenge for the defense as the prosecution seeks to portray Cosby as a serial predator.
– ‘Serial rapist’ –
His retrial is the most high-profile criminal case since the start of the #MeToo era, the US cultural watershed that has ruined the careers of a string of powerful men in Hollywood, politics and the media.
“I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” Heidi Thomas, a music teacher from Colorado and mother of four, who says Cosby assaulted her in Nevada 34 years ago, said Wednesday.
Thomas went public after other women started to come forward, giving multiple interviews and supporting a campaign to change the statute of limitations on rape in Colorado.
“When I determined these women were not being believed, I wanted to support them,” she said.
Under cross-examination, she admitted she had been in Facebook contact with Constand. Asked if she sent her a message saying “I got your back sister?” she replied: “I probably did … That sounds like me.”
“I just wanted her to know with everything that was being said about her and us, that there was somebody out there who knew she was telling the truth,” she testified.
The accusers’ testimony of being drugged and unable to respond to the advances of a much-admired mentor figure they believed would further their careers are striking in their similarities with Constand’s allegations.
Chelan Lasha, at the time a teenage model, sobbed, dabbed her eyes and broke down repeatedly as she told of being handed a blue pill by Cosby while suffering a cold then being assaulted in Las Vegas in 1986.
– ‘Grunting’ noises –
“I trusted him,” she sobbed. “He laid me in the bed. I couldn’t move anymore after that,” she added, then simulating the sounds of the “grunting” noises she said the entertainer made.
Cosby’s celebrity defense attorney Tom Mesereau has branded Constand a lying, money-obsessed “con artist” who falsely accused the star to bag a nearly $3.4 million civil settlement in 2006 to evade debts.
At the time of the alleged assault, Constand was the director of women’s basketball at Temple University, where the wealthy actor sat on the board of trustees.
Cosby said he gave the Canadian an over-the-counter antihistamine to relieve stress. He said their relations were consensual.
“What does she want from Bill Cosby?” asked Mesereau, who deployed a similar defense that acquitted Michael Jackson of child molestation.
“You already know the answer: money, money and lots more money,” he said. “She’s now a multi-millionaire because she pulled it off.”