NORRISTOWN — Anxious. Depressed. Sad.
That’s how the mother of Kelly Johnson, one of comedian Bill Cosby’s alleged victims, described her daughter’s demeanor in 1996 after Cosby allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted her in a Bel Air hotel.
“She changed considerably,” Patrice Sewell, Johnson’s mother, testified Tuesday on day two of Cosby’s criminal trial. “It almost appeared as if she folded in on herself. Her circle of friends became narrower… when she started back working again, she’d go to work. She’d come home. She had very little social life.
Sewell was the second witness called to testify against Cosby, who is facing sexual assault charges in Montgomery County in connection with a separate incident involving alleged victim Andrea Constand that happened almost a decade after the encounter with Johnson.
Despite dozens of accusations of sexual assault, this criminal case is the only one Cosby faces — and it’s likely to remain that way. Cosby sat intently in court Tuesday wearing a black suit and carrying a cane. He was escorted today by his publicist, but was not accompanied by his TV daughter Keshia Knight Pulliam, who walked arm-in-arm with him Monday.
Johnson testified Monday that she first met Cosby in the 1990s when she was working as an assistant for his agent, Tom Illius, at the William Morris Agency. She said on one occasion in 1996, she met Cosby in a bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel for lunch when he offered her a pill to help her “relax.”
When she came to, Johnson testified through sobs, she was on his bed with her dress undone and he was next to her. She testified that she woke up later in her home with no recollection of getting there.
Sewell told the jury — made up of seven men and five women from Allegheny County — that her daughter called her “distraught” after the alleged incident, saying she feared for her job.
“She was nearly hysterical,” Sewell testified. “She was crying and she said ‘Mommy, something’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re telling lies about me. Mr. Cosby is telling all these lies about me. And he’s telling [Illius] to get rid of me and I don’t know what to do. I’m really afraid.’”
Defense attorney Angela Agrusa continuously pointed out that Sewell wasn’t there when the alleged incident occurred and knew only of it through what her daughter had told her.
“You weren’t there to protect her or to see if what she told you was correct,” Agrusa said to the witness, who quietly shook her head up and down through tears.
Cosby’s defense attorney Brian McMonagle cross-examined Johnson Monday and focused squarely on inconsistencies in Johnson’s story, namely the year the alleged assault took place. According to McMonagle, attorney’s notes from a 1996 civil deposition in a worker’s compensation case indicate Johnson at one point said the assault took place in 1990.
Joseph Miller, a California attorney who specializes in worker’s compensation cases, began testifying under direct questioning following Sewell. He testified that he deposed Johnson and recalled her telling of the alleged assault by Cosby.
Johnson’s testimony was intended by prosecutors to set up a pattern of sexual assault. Though Montgomery County attorneys wanted to trot out 13 women who also claimed they had been assaulted by Cosby, O’Neill ultimately decided just one — other than Constand — would be allowed to testify.
Typically, “past bad acts” aren’t admissible in criminal cases, though there are exceptions if witnesses are being used to show a common pattern or M.O.
Constand, a former Temple University employee, first came forward to police in 2005, telling local officials in Cheltenham that a year prior in 2004, Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her inside his home just outside Philadelphia city limits. At the time, the district attorney declined to file charges. Constand sued Cosby and settled.
And it was that civil suit that could ultimately be Cosby’s downfall. Depositions from that case were released publicly in 2015, and now-District Attorney Kevin Steele — who campaigned on the premise of reopening the investigation into Cosby’s conduct — used those depositions as the basis for aggravated indecent assault charges filed against the comedian just a few days before the statute of limitations was up.
Cosby pleaded not guilty to the charges and has denied the allegations against him, claiming the encounter with Constand was consensual.
Multiple women who have publicly accused Cosby of sexual assault were in the courtroom today, as was Gloria Allred, the nationally-recognized attorney representing about 30 of Cosby’s alleged victims.