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At Bill Cosby retrial, 3 women testify he drugged and assaulted them

"I blamed myself," one woman testified. "I thought it was my fault for 30 years."

by Meredith Mandell, Adam Reiss and Karin Roberts /
Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse on Wednesday in Norristown, Pa.Matt Slocum / AP

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NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Three women took the stand Wednesday at Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial. They portrayed him, in strikingly similar details, as a sexual predator who used pills and alcohol as a pathway to incapacitate and molest them.

The mood in the courtroom was tense and filled with tearful sobs as the three women testified, with occasional impassioned outbursts, over nearly eight hours.

"Dr. Huxtable, what are you doing to me?" was the thought that one woman, Chelan Lasha, said went through her head as Cosby groped her breasts and rubbed against her leg. He had invited her to his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton, then given her amaretto and a blue pill, she said, telling her it was an antihistamine. He took her into the bedroom and assaulted her while she was unable to move, she said. She was 17.

Cosby is not criminally charged in the alleged incidents involving Lasha or two other women who testified Wednesday.

Cosby, 80, is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault involving Andrea Constand, who alleges that he drugged and molested her in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Cosby has repeatedly denied all the allegations against him. In the criminal case, Cosby has said the sexual encounter was consensual.

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The three women who testified Wednesday in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas were referring to incidents that occurred more than 30 years ago. They are among the five prosecution witnesses who are expected to testify in the criminal case, including the prosecution’s main witness, Constand.

A second woman, Janice Baker-Kinney, testified that she went to Cosby's home in Reno, Nevada, with a friend expecting a pizza party. When they arrived, Cosby was there alone, she said. He offered her two Quaaludes and a beer, she said. She said in court that she woke up the next morning naked and felt fluid between her legs.

The defense aggressively questioned Baker-Kinney about her delay in coming forward.

"You never thought of it as rape? For 30 years?" defense attorney Thomas Mesereau asked Baker-Kinney.

"I blamed myself," she replied. "I thought it was my fault for 30 years."

 Bill Cosby returns to the courtroom after a recess on Wednesday. Dominick Reuter / AFP — Getty Images

The defense twice asked Judge Steven O’Neill to declare a mistrial after the witnesses uttered accusations against Cosby instead of answering the questions they had been asked. The judge denied the motions.

Cosby paid Constand nearly $3.4 million in a 2006 civil settlement, it was revealed in the prosecution’s opening statements this week.

Lasha acknowledged, under questioning, that she had a criminal record for making false statements. And defense attorneys tried to paint the women as eager for money and fame.

The third woman who testified, Heidi Thomas, alleged that Cosby lured her to a Reno home with promises to help her musical career, then drugged and sexually assaulted her.

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In her cross-examination, defense attorney Kathleen Bliss questioned Thomas about her links to a website that offers speaking engagements and her numerous TV appearances related to her claims of sexual assault.

"You've been getting a lot of attention, haven't you?" Bliss asked.

The three women cannot take their cases to court because the statute of limitations has passed. Last month O'Neill, the judge,ruled that they could testify, as an exception to Pennsylvania's rules of evidence, to allow prosecutors to establish that their accounts proved a "common plan, scheme or design" in the assault that Cosby is charged with.

Cosby's first trial last year ended in a mistrial after a jury deliberated for 52 hours and failed to reach a verdict.

Outside the courthouse, a spokeswoman for Cosby, Ebonee Benson, described the case against him as "prosecution by distraction."

"When you don’t have a case you will fill the time with something else," she said. "The media must not misdirect or divert attention away from the case they are here to try."

Meredith Mandell and Adam Reiss reported from Norristown, and Karin Roberts from New York.

CORRECTION (April 12, 2018, 10:27 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of a Bill Cosby spokeswoman. She is Ebonee Benson, not Ebony.

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