Keshia Knight Pulliam, right, leads Bill Cosby, left, along a hallway during a break from his sexual assault trial inside the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., Monday, June 5, 2017. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool)
After months of hearings, motions and legal wrangling that included seating a jury from upstate, comedian Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial began Monday.
By Denise Clay
When she worked as an assistant to Tom Illius, his manager for personal appearances at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, Kelly Johnson felt the same way that most of us felt about Bill Cosby.
While a tad demanding, Johnson, who now lives in Atlanta, believed that the man who gave us iconic characters like Fat Albert and “The Cosby Show”’s Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was at his core a good man.
“I had the utmost respect and admiration for him based on what millions of other Americans, especially other African Americans, thought,” Johnson said.
But as she sat in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown on Monday as the first witness in the iconic comedian’s sexual assault trial, Johnson couldn’t hold back her tears as she recounted the moment that all changed.
The day that she claims Cosby sexually assaulted her.
“He called me and asked me out to lunch at the Bel-Air Hotel to discuss my life and what I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “Instead, he asked me to come to his bungalow. I knocked on the door, and he answered it dressed in a bathrobe and slippers.”
Once she walked in the door, Johnson testified, she sat on a couch and Cosby ordered lunch. He gave her a white pill, she said, something to help her relax. Instead, it made her feel like she “was underwater”.
By the time she came to, Johnson found herself on the bed, and watched in a haze as Cosby allegedly used her hand to pleasure himself.
“I felt like I wanted to say something,” she said, crying.
Johnson was called as a witness to Cosby’s alleged prior bad acts as part of the proceedings in Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s courtroom as Cosby’s case moved from the Court of Public Opinion and into the Court of Law.
Cosby is charged with aggressive indecent sexual assault for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employer Andrea Constand in his Cheltenham Township home in 2004.
He was joined in court by Keshia Knight Pulliam, who portrayed Cosby’s daughter Rudy on “The Cosby Show”. Neither Constand, nor Cosby’s wife Camille, was in the courtroom Monday.
During her opening remarks, assistant district attorney Kristen Faden told the jury made up of residents from Allegheny County to focus on only one thing: whether or not Constand had the ability to consent to the sexual advances Cosby was making to her.
“Inability to consent is what this trial is about,” Faden said. “The defendant used his power and his fame to manipulate and incapacitate women for sex. If [Constand] couldn’t resist, she couldn’t consent.”
Faden promised that she, and District Attorney Kevin Steele would prove, with the help of an unsealed deposition Cosby gave as part of Constand’s 2005 lawsuit, which was settled for an undisclosed sum.
When he opened his case, Cosby’s attorney, Brian McMonagle, said the deposition cuts both ways. In addition to admissions on Cosby’s part that included his procurement of the quaaludes and Benadryl he allegedly used to drug women for sex, it also includes a bunch of reasons why his client should be found not guilty.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime,” McMonagle said. “But so is a false accusation of sexual assault. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office conducted an exhaustive investigation and found that [Constand] had been untruthful time after time in her statements.”
McMonagle also claimed that Constand’s motive was a financial one, saying she had gotten herself a lawyer who specialized in sexual assault lawsuits, something he also accused Johnson of.
“Do you see a pattern?!” he asked.
It was that pattern that McMonagle alluded to in his cross-examination of Johnson. She left William Morris in 1996 after the alleged incident with Cosby because he tried, as one of most important clients the talent agency had, to talk her boss into firing her.
She filed from workman’s compensation and McMonagle used notes from a lawyer involved in the case to try and prove that she had past experiences with drugs.
None of this surprised Allred, who represents 33 of Cosby’s 60 accusers.
“I’m not surprised,” she said. “It’s the defense’s job to attack the evidence, to attack my client, and even to attack me. It’s par for the course. It’s his job to make his client look like the victim.”
The trial continues today at 9:30 and is expected to last for two weeks. Please visit the SUN website for daily updates and get this week’s edition of the SUN for a weekly wrap-up.
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