By Graham Bowley and Sydney Ember
New York Times
Some knew him for only a day. Others built friendships over months, even years, and introduced him to their mothers, an aunt, even a 9-year-old son, they say.
But all 13 women say the same thing: Bill Cosby finally gave them a pill, or some other intoxicant, sometimes hidden at the bottom of a fizzing glass of Champagne or a glass of wine or soda, and they awoke hours later having been sexually abused.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, announced this month that 13 women, selected from a larger pool of nearly 50 who say Cosby assaulted them, have now agreed to come forward and testify at a long-anticipated criminal trial next June.
The prosecution has asked the court to allow the women to testify, and the judge’s ruling, expected in coming months, will be critical to Cosby’s fate.
If the testimony is allowed, the prosecution’s case would be bolstered by its ability to bring forth accuser after accuser with accounts similar to that of Andrea Constand, the former Temple University basketball staff member whose accusations are at the center of the June trial. Prosecutors have charged Cosby with drugging and sexually assaulting Constand at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.
“It could be the most important ruling in the case,” said Benjamin Brafman, a defense lawyer in New York who is not involved in the Cosby case. “It is no longer just one person making the allegations.”
For the women, their testimony could represent a final legal opportunity to address what they contend was Cosby’s criminal behavior. Most never came forward decades ago, when they say the incidents occurred. Even civil cases against him have largely been prevented by statutes of limitation.
But this sort of evidence is not often admitted in criminal cases. Ordinarily, prosecutors in Pennsylvania and most other states cannot introduce evidence or accusations of prior bad behavior. It is viewed as too prejudicial for a jury as it sifts through the facts of the case that is actually before it. Cosby’s legal team said it would fight to block the women from testifying.
There are circumstances, though, in Pennsylvania and other states where such evidence is permitted — for instance, when it shows conduct so similar it can be argued that it demonstrates a common scheme or plan, a kind of unique fingerprint of criminal behavior.
In the Cosby case, prosecutors say in court papers that the women’s accounts form such a pattern — that he befriended each of them, mentoring some, drugging and assaulting them all, just as, they say, he did Constand.
Twelve of the 13 women say Cosby offered them alcohol or pills or both. One woman said she drank a glass of soda, which she says she believes was laced with a drug.
Constand says Cosby had evolved into her mentor, invited her to his home, gave her pills and wine, then molested her while she was incapacitated. Cosby has denied all of the women’s charges.
Prosecutors did not name the women in their court papers. But 11 of them — Janice Baker Kinney, Therese Serignese, Linda Kirkpatrick, Heidi Thomas, Margie Shapiro, Lise-Lotte Lublin, Donna Motsinger, Rebecca Lynn Neal, Linda Brown, Cindra Ladd and a woman who identified herself only as Kacey — have previously come forward to publicly detail their allegations, and their identities are clear from the information made public in the court filing.
One woman, Serignese, says Cosby assaulted her in 1975 or 1976 when she was 18 or 19 after they met in a hotel gift shop and he invited her to a show and gave her pills.
Another, Motsinger, has accused Cosby of assaulting her in 1972, a time when she was working at a restaurant in Sausalito, California, He took her to one of his shows but then assaulted her after giving her wine and a pill, she said.
Motsinger, now 75, said she could not discuss why she agreed to testify but said of the trial, “It’s one step closer to justice.”
While most of the women who have agreed to testify had once been public with their identities and accusations, even going so far as to participate in news conferences, they did not want to comment further at this point.
Patricia Leary Steuer, 60, a woman who has accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her but is not among the 13, said, “None of us want to jeopardize the outcome of the trial by speaking in a way that would make the prosecutor’s job more difficult.”
She added, “We’re all voluntarily being very quiet.”
Two of the 13 women, a former flight attendant and a woman identified in court papers as having worked at the Playboy Club in New York, do not appear to have ever come forward publicly.