The first of five accusers to likely testify against Bill Cosby in his sexual assault retrial took the stand today during the second day of proceedings at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA.
Heidi Thomas was an aspiring actress in 1984 who had just been set up with the famous comedian as a mentor. She recalled the surreal feeling of thinking she’d get one-on-one acting lessons with him. Instead, according to her testimony, she took one sip of wine and ended up being assaulted in Cosby’s bed.
Thomas explained her story this afternoon in an hour with the prosecution and then during another hour of cross-examination from Cosby’s attorneys. She’s one of five anticipated accusers expected to testify in the trial centered on the allegation of a 2004 sexual assault brought by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand against Cosby. Thomas will face more cross-examination when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.
In 1984, Thomas’ agency JF Images, run by Jo Ferrell, scheduled a trip to Reno, NV, to take acting lessons with Cosby. Thomas expected to stay in a hotel but instead was taken to a ranch house where Cosby was staying. There, she began acting out a scene the comedian prepared for her in which she was to play a drunk woman. Thomas rarely drank and had never been drunk. She testified that Cosby asked her if she drank what kind of alcohol it would be. After she replied white wine, he brought her a glass.
She took one sip. Then everything got blurry.
“I have little snapshots of the next four days after that,” Thomas said on the stand. The first, she said, was of being in bed with Cosby and him forcing his penis in her mouth. The next was of her lying sideways on the bed and Cosby referencing himself in the third person.
He always referred to himself in the third person, either as ‘Mr. C’ or ‘your friend,’” Thomas said. “He said, ‘Your friend is going to come again.’”
Thomas woke up sick the next morning and barely remembered the rest of the trip. She said she wanted to understand what happened and two months later visited him in St. Louis, finding Cosby would not meet with her alone to discuss the alleged assault.
The prosecution plans to use Thomas and four other accusers to show a pattern of behavior by Cosby, hoping to convince the jury the previous acts increase the likelihood of Constand’s story being true. Last year, only one other accuser was allowed to testify.
The first called witness of the trial was Dr. Barbara Ziv, a sexual assault expert. She had long, open-ended responses to questioning from prosecutor Kristen Feden, who succeeded in getting Ziv to explain “rape myths,” including why sexual assault victims might not correctly remember the details of their assaults and why it could take months or years for victims to come forward.
Ziv withstood more than an hour of cross-examination from Cosby attorney Kathleen Bliss who asked asked about subjects ranging from the Duke lacrosse case and the Central Park Five to details on the likelihood of accusers keeping in contact with their offenders. Though Tom Mesereau is the lead lawyer for Cosby, it is Bliss who has questioned the first two witnesses.
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