Prosecution’s first witnesses testify at Cosby retrial

Bill Cosby (right) walks into the Montgomery County Courthouse on March 30. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / FILE PHOTO

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The prosecution presented the first of five of its witnesses who accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault on Tuesday afternoon.

The prosecution will call these accusers to show Cosby’s “prior bad acts” of regularly drugged and assaulted women.

Heidi Thomas, who is from Castlerock, Colorado, testified that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in a private home in Nevada in 1984. Thomas, who was an aspiring actress at the time of the alleged assault, said Cosby wanted to mentor her and give her acting lessons.

Her talent agency set up a time for Thomas to visit Cosby in Reno, Nevada, where she would stay in a hotel. When she arrived in Reno, she said a driver in a black car picked her up from an airport. He then drove Thomas outside of the city to a private home. Once she arrived at the private home, she said she sat down with Cosby for acting lessons. During this meeting, Cosby asked her to do a “cold read” of a script in which her character was intoxicated.

Thomas said she had never drank alcohol before this encounter, so Cosby offered her a glass of wine as a prop. She said she took “a sip” of the glass.

Thomas described her memories of the alleged assault as “snap shots,” to jurors and that she does recall much of the rest of the weekend with Cosby, which included going to his comedy show in Reno.

“I must have said something that made him think that this was acceptable,” Thomas told jurors. “What did I say? What did I do?”

Thomas ended up meeting with Cosby again two months after the alleged assault. She said she wanted more information from Cosby about what took place in that home in Nevada but never got a chance to discuss this with him.

Thomas, who did not tell anyone she was assaulted until years later, said she has not received any money for going public about this allegation and has not hired lawyers.

During cross-examination, Cosby’s defense attorney Kathleen Bliss was cut short around 6 p.m. because jurors were scheduled to have dinner. Thomas will continue to be questioned Wednesday.

Before Thomas took the stand, Dr. Barbara Ziv, a professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, testified as the prosecution’s first witness as an expert on sexual assault victim behavior. Ziv said she has testified as an expert in this area hundreds of times prior to this case.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden fired questions about sexual assault victim behavior —  like delayed reporting and an inability to recall details of an assault — to support Constand’s behavior following the alleged assault, which the defense has tried to discredit her with.

Questioning became heated during cross-examination when Bliss tried to shake Ziv’s credibility as an expert.

Bliss attempted to show that Ziv was biased because she was quoted as an expert in an article about the outcome of Cosby’s first trial, which ended in a hung jury in June 2017. Ziv fired back, stating that she had prior knowledge of the trial and only spoke generally about the behavior of sexual assault victims and sexual assault trials.

Tuesday began with the defense’s opening statement, which painted Andrea Constand as a liar who is out for money.  Defense attorney Tom Mesereau said the $3.36 million Constand received from Cosby in a 2005 civil suit settlement was equal to hitting “the jackpot.” Defense Attorney Kevin Steele revealed the amount of the settlement during his opening statement on Monday, which was the first time it was stated publicly.

Kelly Brennan
can be reached at kelly.brennan@temple.edu Or you can follow Kelly on Twitter @_kellybrennan Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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