NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers will continue grilling his accusers when his sexual assault trial resumes on Thursday following withering treatment of three so far that featured tears, confessions of drug use and charges of self-promotion.
Cosby, 80, the once beloved comic and television star whose appeal across generations and races lasted for decades, is standing for his second criminal trial on allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting a former friend and colleague, Andrea Constand, in 2004.
Some 50 other women have made similar accusations but their cases were too old to prosecute. Five of them are being permitted to tell the jury their stories now, in a retrial expected to last a month.
In the first trial, which ended in a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury, only one other accuser besides Constand was allowed to testify.
When Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill permitted five of them to bolster the prosecution case, it was a major setback for Cosby’s defense team, which is fighting back with aggressive cross-examination.
In three days of testimony so far, three of the women have told stories of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in the 1980s, the decade when he became “America’s Dad” by playing the lovable Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” Constand will likely tell a similar story of her 2004 encounter with Cosby.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau, who represented Michael Jackson in his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges, will resume his cross-examination of former bartender Janice Baker-Kinney.
On Wednesday Mesereau honed in on Baker-Kinney’s past drug use. Baker-Kinney readily admitted using drugs at times and that she was an alcoholic up until about age 38.
“I haven’t had a drink or drug in more than 20 years,” she said.
Baker-Kinney held firm against most of Mesereau’s questioning, though she choked up when speaking of her son’s depression after his father’s death.
Co-counsel Kathleen Bliss took on two other accusers, bringing one of them, aspiring actress Chelan Lasha, to tears for much of the session while grilling her about inconsistencies between her testimony and a statement she gave police.
Later, during a break in the action with the judge out of the courtroom, Lasha spontaneously burst into sobs and began gasping before recovering her composure.
Bliss also tried to skewer Heidi Thomas, an aspiring actress, about the potentially career-boosting publicity she received after coming forward with accusations against Cosby.
“OK,” Thomas admitted, “I had a lot of attention.”
Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman