NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – The judge in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial refused to declare a mistrial on Wednesday after one of the accusers called as a prosecution witness blurted out from the witness stand, “You know what you did, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
Chelan Lasha, one of five accusers who will testify in support of the woman whose case is now being tried in a Pennsylvania courthouse, directed her question at the entertainer as the jury of seven men and five women listened.
Cosby’s defense team immediately asked for a mistrial, fearing her out-of-turn remark could unduly influence the jury. Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill denied a mistrial, but he warned a tearful Lasha against repeating such conduct, and he told the jury to ignore the remark.
Cosby, 80, once a beloved stand-up comedian and television star known for his family-friendly material, is on trial on charges of drugging and sexually assaulting another woman, Andrea Constand, in 2004.
Cosby’s first trial ended in a mistrial in June when a deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict. The judge allowed only one other accuser besides Constand to testify in the first trial but now is allowing five.
Lasha said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1986 when she was just out of high school in Las Vegas. She wept as she recalled events, occasionally making her testimony hard to understand.
“I was a child, and a good girl, and he took it all away from me,” Lasha said. “I trusted him.”
Since the first trial, the #MeToo movement exploded, prompting an increasing number of women to come forward with accusations of harassment or assault from rich and famous men. In a prelude to that culture shift, some 50 women accused Cosby of molestation going back decades. All but Constand’s case were too old to be prosecuted.
Cosby denies the charge of aggravated indecent assault of Constand, now 45, saying any sexual contact was consensual, and his lawyers have portrayed Constand as a gold-digging con artist. Cosby paid her $3.4 million in 2006 to settle a civil lawsuit.
Earlier on Wednesday, defense lawyers questioned the motives of another witness who said the comedian drugged her for four days in 1984 and sexually molested her, asking whether she was telling her story in a bid to revive her flagging career in musical theater.
Heidi Thomas had testified for the prosecution on Tuesday. During cross-examination, defense lawyer Kathleen Bliss asked whether she wanted to help Constand.
“I wanted to see a serial rapist convicted,” Thomas responded.
Reporting by David DeKok; writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman