NORRISTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA—Chelan Lasha was crying before she even got up on the witness stand for Bill Cosby’s trial on Wednesday.
She sat in the front row of the courtroom, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief while sitting next to a detective. It didn’t get any better once she took the stand, where she cried throughout the next 30 minutes, sometimes outright sobbing as she told her tale of allegedly being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in 1986 at the Las Vegas Hilton when she was a teenager.
When Judge Steven O’Neill paused her testimony for the usual lunch break around 12:30 p.m. she blurted out, staring right at Cosby, “You remember, don’t you Mr. Cosby?”
Cosby smiled. The defense immediately moved for a mistrial, a motion the judge denied but he said he would now instruct witnesses at the beginning of their testimony not to speak to anyone in the courtroom.
O’Neill also chastised Lasha after the jury filed out for the lunch break, telling her she could not speak to others in the room.
“My apologies to the court,” she said, still dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief.
The outburst happened on the third day of the retrial of Cosby, 80, for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania home in January 2004. O’Neill declared a mistrial in his first trial last June after jurors could not reach a unanimous decision. Cosby denies Constand’s allegations as well as similar ones from more than 60 women.
Lasha was the second of five other accusers allowed to testify at this trial who claim Cosby did something similar to them.
Heidi Thomas testified on Tuesday that Cosby called himself “your friend” during her rape. Cosby’s defense team continued their cross-examination of her Wednesday morning, trying to poke holes in Thomas’s story about how Cosby turned from mentor to predator after inviting her to Reno in April 1984.
Defense Attorney Kathleen Bliss grilled her about a private Facebook message Thomas sent to Constand at some point after she went public with her story in January 2015 that said, ‘I got your back, sister.’
“You’ve made it very clear you wanted to help Andrea Constand, haven’t you?” Bliss asked her.
“I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” Thomas replied.
Earlier, O’Neill ruled that the defense team could question Lasha about her 2007 conviction for lying to law enforcement, even though it was outside the ten-year limit for including such convictions.
Lasha took the stand around noon and recounted how she first met Cosby when she was a 17-year-old aspiring model through family contacts. She and her older sister were being raised by her grandparents in Las Vegas because her mother was in prison, she said.
Cosby called their home a couple of times and spoke to her grandmother, Lasha said, who invited him over for dinner.
Another time “he came back and he brought ice cream and stuff,” she said. “He told me he was coming back and he wanted to meet with me at the Hilton…I wanted to be a model and actress and was going to school and he wanted to…help my career.”
She drove over there for what she was told was going to be a photo shoot. When she arrived a belleman escorted her in a private elevator to Room 3000, the Elvis Presley Suite, where Cosby was staying, she said.
“I went into the room,” she said, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. “He gave me a hug. ‘How are you doing? How’s your grandmother?’
“He told me to go into the bathroom and wet my hair because he wanted to see what it looked like wet.”
A photographer took some pictures of her, Lasha said, and afterward—still sneezing and coughing from a bad cold—she said Cosby offered her what he said was an antihistamine.
“He said, ‘Here. This will break up the cold,’”she said.
Within a few minutes, Lasha was woozy, she said.
“He said, ‘You need to lay down,’ and he walked me to the bedroom,” she said. “I could barely move. He guided me there and he laid me on the bed. I couldn’t move anymore after that.”
Lasha began sobbing again.
“He laid next to me and he kept pinching my breasts and humping my leg…and grunting,” she said, in between gasping sobs.
She was thinking, “Dr. Huxtable, aren’t you going to help me? What are you doing to me?” she said. “I couldn’t say nothing. ‘What are you doing…and why are you doing this to me?’ You’re supposed to help me be successful.’”
Twelve to 14 hours later, Cosby woke up Lasha and told her she had to go home, she said.
“He was pointing me to this table with some money on it,” she said.
“He said, ‘Hurry up and get dressed. I’ve got to go.’
“That money was for my mother and me to buy something to go to his show.”
Lasha left and went straight to her guidance counselor’s home and told her what happened, she said. She also told her sister and eventually her grandmother, but not before she and her grandmother went to his show a few days later.
“I was embarrassed,” she said. “I was the golden girl.”
The only other contact she had with him after that was a phone call from him, she said.
“He said, ‘People that talk too much can be quieted,’” she said. “I said, ‘Huh?’And he hung up the phone. I kept trying to call him back but he wouldn’t answer anymore.”