Bill Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle questioned the specifics of nearly everything one of Cosby’s alleged victims said today — but that victim was not Andrea Constand. Instead, the only person on the stand today was former talent agency assistant Kelly Johnson, who testified about an encounter with Cosby that included a pill. McMonagle questioned everything about her relationship with Cosby, from the year it occurred to even whether she authored a press release about the accusation (she said she did, but lawyer Gloria Allred’s name was on the release). And by the end of an hour-long cross-examination, the defense attorney had raised some possible timeline issues.
Johnson was the first and so far only witness called during what’s expected to be a two-week trial. Earlier today, the prosecution and defense also presented their opening statements in this case regarding the alleged sexual assault of Constand in 2004. The trial will pick back up tomorrow morning, likely with Johnson’s mother as a witness. For now, here are six takeaways from what’s happened so far.
Sobs during a tale of alleged assault
With prosecutor Stewart Ryan asking questions, Johnson told the story of her relationship with Cosby. It began in 1990, she said, when she started working as a personal assistant for Cosby’s agent at William Morris. A few years later, in 1996, she said Cosby invited her to his house and asked her to help act out a scene from a script that ended with an embrace and a kiss. After dodging the kiss several times, she said Cosby dismissed her.
Johnson then testified their next major encounter came when he invited her to his bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel. He offered her a white pill. “I pretended to swallow,” Johnson said, “and he handed me a glass of wine. He said, ‘lift up your tongue and open your mouth.’ And there it was under my tongue.”
She started sobbing and said she finally swallowed it, passed out and came to in bed with Cosby with her dress half off and him putting lotion in her hand and making her touch his penis.
Cosby’s defense sows doubt
But did that visit to the Bel Air Hotel occur in 1990 or 1996? It’s a major difference, and one Cosby’s legal team tried to exploit. In a deposition from an HR complaint filed in 1996 by Johnson against William Morris, Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle read from notes showing Johnson said she had visited Cosby’s room at the Bel Air Hotel in May 1990. That would have been one month after she began employment and six years before she testified on Monday that she went to Cosby’s hotel room and was allegedly assaulted.
McMonagle asked her about this contradiction, and she said she didn’t remember her statements in the deposition. He then asked her whether she would’ve been telling the truth in the deposition if she had said she visited Cosby at the Bel Air Hotel in 1990. She said she didn’t think that would have been true. During re-direct, the prosecution did nothing to address whether the alleged assault took place in 1990 or 1996.
It was the biggest of a few questions McMonagle was able to raise. He also suggested Johnson accepted money from Cosby after a visit to his home in 1996. Johnson, who had testified Cosby “dismissed” her, said she couldn’t remember.
Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred’s big courtroom presence
Allred is a lawyer for Johnson and other alleged Cosby victims. She showed up to the courthouse this morning with a documentary crew and had a reserved seat in the front on the side of the prosecution. McMonagle asked Johnson briefly about Allred during his cross-examination and then made a remark about Johnson continued to look at her as she testified.
“You don’t have to look at her,” he said. “She’s in the front row.”
These lawyers are exhausting
The numerous pretrial hearings that took place over the last year and a half rarely went smoothly. Hearings that were supposed to last one day turned into multi-day ordeals, and arguments erupted not just over evidence but how evidence would be displayed. For instance, in December, they got into a tiff about the angle a projector showing a Power Point could face.
The first day of the actual trial was about the same. Because of objections during McMonagle’s cross-examination of Johnson, Judge Steven T. O’Neill had to call the lawyers to speak to him privately about five times. Johnson’s mother was supposed to testify this afternoon after her daughter, but O’Neill pushed it back to Tuesday because Cosby’s defense team was objecting to her speaking as a witness.
How long will the trial really last?
O’Neill has said the trial will last no more than two weeks. Delays like those noted above could lengthen the proceedings, but the prosecution in its opening statement hinted its case would be built around only a few witnesses: Johnson, Johnson’s mother, an expert toxicologist, testimony from a Cosby deposition and police statement and Constand.
How long will we wait for Constand?
Much of the talk outside the courtroom centered on the surprising decision of the Commonwealth to call Johnson as the first witness rather than Constand. The prosecution had petitioned the court to use her as a witness to parallel to the story of Constand. Both women have alleged that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them after inviting them over to discuss their careers. Yet because Constand had not been called as a witness, her story has largely gone untold to the jury, aside from references to it in the prosecution’s opening statement.