April 11, 2018 / 10:12 AM / 3 months ago

Cosby lawyers suggest accuser testified against him to help career

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Bill Cosby’s defense team on Wednesday questioned the motives of a witness who says the comedian drugged her for four days in 1984 and sexually molested her, asking whether she was telling her story in a bid to revive her flagging career in musical theater.

Cosby, 80, once a beloved stand-up comedian and television star known for his family-friendly material, is on trial in a Pennsylvania court on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting another woman, Andrea Constand, in 2004.

Heidi Thomas, an aspiring actress who met Cosby for career coaching, had testified for the prosecution on Tuesday that Cosby gave her wine spiked with an unidentified drug that kept her stupefied for four days. She said she awoke to find him naked and attempting to force himself on her.

Defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss asked Thomas about the attention she received in the press after coming forward with her accusations against Cosby.

“Since you came out you’ve had a lot of attention, wouldn’t you agree?” Bliss asked.

“OK, I had a lot of attention,” Thomas replied.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby passes through security as he arrives for the third day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 11, 2018. Dominick Reuter/Pool via Reuters

Unlike in the first trial, which ended in a mistrial last year when a deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict, the judge is allowing up to five other accusers besides Constand to testify against Cosby. Thomas was the first to take the witness stand.

Since the first trial, the #MeToo movement exploded, prompting an increasing number of women to come forward with accusations of harassment or assault from rich and famous men. In a prelude to that culture shift, some 50 women accused Cosby of molestation going back decades. All but Constand’s case were too old to be prosecuted.

Cosby denies the charge of aggravated indecent assault of Constand, now 45, saying any sexual contact was consensual, and his lawyers have portrayed Constand as a gold-digging con artist. Cosby paid her $3.4 million in 2006 to settle a civil lawsuit.

Bliss challenged Thomas’ motives, asking whether she wanted to help Constand.

“I wanted to see a serial rapist convicted,” Thomas responded.

But Thomas did admit she sent Constand a supportive e-mail.

“I just wanted her to know ... there was somebody out there who knew she was telling the truth,” Thomas said.

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Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill cautioned the jury that it should not consider any evidence of Cosby assaulting Thomas as proof of his guilt regarding Constand, but it could consider it as evidence of a pattern of behavior.

Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis

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