Three women accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them in court on Wednesday, as the aging comedian stood trial for the alleged assault of a fourth.
Attorneys for Andrea Constand – a 44-year-old woman who says Mr Cosby sexually assaulted her in 2004 – plan to call a total of five alleged victims to the stand in this week’s retrial. They are trying to establish what they say is a pattern of Mr Cosby drugging and assaulting young women, after the comedian’s first trial ended in a hung jury last year.
“It still takes me everything within my being to say the words, ‘I was raped’,’ one of the witnesses, Janice Baker-Kinney, told the courtroom.
Mr Cosby has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by Ms Constand. In opening statements, his defence attorneys called her a “con artist” who wanted to sue him and profit off of a settlement.
The other accusers who testified, they said, were also seeking money or fame. The women’s emotional testimony caused prosecutors to call for a mistrial several times on Wednesday, which Judge Steven O’Neill declined.
Cosby spokeswoman Ebonee Benson told reporters outside the courthouse that the accusers’ testimony was 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.”
One of the accusers who testified on Wednesday said she was just 17 when Mr Cosby assaulted her. Chelan Lasha told the courtroom she was an aspiring model at the time, and went to Mr Cosby’s hotel room to pose for modelling shots.
There, she said, the comedian handed her a small blue pill that he said would help with her cold. He also gave her two shots of amaretto “to help break up the cough,” she said. The combination rendered her immobile.
“He guided me there, and he laid me in the bed. I couldn’t move any more after that,” she said. “He laid next to me, and he kept touching my breast and humping my leg. I remember something warm hitting my leg,”
“You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?” she asked through tears.
One of Mr Cosby’s defence attorneys, Kathleen Bliss, countered by bringing up Ms Lasha’s 2007 conviction for filing a false police report. The defence attorney asked her why she had not told the police about the conviction when speaking with officers about Mr Cosby.
“I said I had a criminal history,” Ms Lasha said, according to the New York Times. But she admitted that the police report did not mention the conviction at the time.
Another woman, Janice Baker-Kinney, said she was 24 when Mr Cosby assaulted her. She said he gave her two blue pills that made her fall asleep. She woke up to find her shirt and pants undone, and Mr Cosby groping her.
“There was evidence between my legs that something had occurred there,” she said.
Mr Cosby’s lawyers claimed Ms Baker-Kinney took the pills willingly. The stage manager did not deny this, but said she was not worried about taking the pills because she thought of Mr Cosby as a “happy, nice comedian”.
Heidi Thomas said she too was 24, and an aspiring actress, when her agent arranged for her to meet with Mr Cosby for acting tips. She told the courtroom Mr Cosby gave her a glass of wine that left her incapacitated. She went in and out of consciousness, she said, but remembers the comedian forcing her to perform oral sex.
When Ms Bliss insinuated that the accuser was only testifying because she wanted to help Ms Constand, Ms Thomas responded: “I want to see a serial rapist convicted.”
The stories were similar to what Ms Constand says happened to her. The former Temple University basketball coach says Mr Cosby gave her pills that rendered her immobile, then sexually assaulted her.
She is one of more than 50 women who have claimed Mr Cosby assaulted them during his decades-long comedy career, but is one of the only women whose case remains within the statute of limitations.
The trial continues.
Additional reporting by AP