Sunday 22 April 2018

Accuser calls Bill Cosby ‘serial rapist’

The 80-year-old is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial (Matt Slocum/AP)
Bill Cosby arrives for his sexual assault trial (Matt Slocum/AP)

By Michael R Sisak, Associated Press

The first accuser to give evidence at Bill Cosby’s retrial has described the comedian as “a serial rapist”.

In her second day giving evidence, Heidi Thomas told jurors in Pennsylvania she came forward with her allegations in early 2015 to support other women who have accused Cosby, not for the attention his lawyers say it brought her.

Thomas, a music teacher from Colorado, had testified that Cosby knocked her out with wine and forced her to perform oral sex in 1984 in Reno, Nevada.

She rejected a defence lawyer’s insinuation that she would do anything to help the comedian’s chief accuser, Andrea Constand.

“You’ve made it very clear that you want to help Andrea Constand, haven’t you?” Kathleen Bliss asked.

“I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” Ms Thomas replied.

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Boxes of documents are wheeled into the courtroom during the retrial of comedian Bill Cosby (Dominick Reuter/Pool Photo via AP)

Ms Thomas is one of five additional accusers who say the comedian drugged and attacked them long before he met Ms Constand, a former Temple University women’s basketball administrator who alleges Cosby gave her pills and then violated her in 2004.

He says the encounter with Ms Constand was consensual.

Prosecutors are lining up the additional accusers 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.

The women could also help prosecutors insulate Ms Constand from the defence’s contention that she 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 civil settlement.

Ms Thomas was a 24-year-old aspiring actress when her agent arranged for Cosby to give her acting tips.

She said Cosby gave her the wine as they rehearsed a scene in which she portrayed a drunken woman.

She said she remembered feeling sick and wondering: “How did I get here?”

Ms Thomas rebuffed a defence suggestion that she was seeking a share of the spotlight and trying to profit off her experiences.

Under cross-examination, she told jurors that many of the more than a dozen interviews she gave after going public stemmed from her work to extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes.

Ms Thomas has teamed up with other Cosby accusers to lobby for longer statutes of limitations, including a successful effort to double Colorado’s to 20 years.

Court opened on Wednesday with the defence successfully arguing that jurors should hear about another accuser’s criminal past so they can fully assess her credibility.

Cosby lawyer Jaya Gupta told the judge that Chelan Lasha’s 2007 guilty plea for making a false report to Arizona law enforcement “bears on her veracity”.

State law bars talk of witness convictions more than a decade old, but Gupta argued that Lasha’s conviction should be an exception since her allegations against Cosby date to 1986.

The judge ruled that Cosby’s lawyers can bring it up.

The former model and aspiring actress said she was immobilised and unable to speak as Cosby assaulted her after giving her a pill he described as an antihistamine.

Her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said the defence is trying to smear Lasha.

The defence has urged jurors to ignore the other accusers, calling their allegations irrelevant to the charges involving Ms Constand, who turned 45 on Wednesday.

Ms Thomas once sent a Facebook message to Ms Constand.

“I just wanted her to know that everything that was being said about her and about us, that there was somebody out there who knew she was telling the truth,” Ms Thomas said.

Cosby, 80, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

His first trial last year ended in a hung jury.

As they began building their case against Cosby, prosecutors chose Ms Thomas as their first substantive witness.

On Tuesday, Ms Thomas said that she blamed herself for what happened, thinking she must have said or done something that led Cosby to believe she would be open to his advances.

She never told her agent or her parents about the alleged assault.

“I was pretty sure whatever I did was my fault,” Ms Thomas said, adding: “I was just going to move on. And I did.”

Under cross-examination, Ms Thomas said that she chronicled her trip to Reno in a scrapbook and recorded a cassette tape at the home where she had the encounter with Cosby.

She said she wanted to recount the trip for her mother and agent but destroyed it years later after seeing a psychiatrist.

It made no mention of the alleged assault, Ms Thomas said, because she had planned to give it to her mother.

Press Association

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