NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – Kicking off Bill Cosby’s assault trial, the jury heard testimony Monday afternoon from a woman who says she was drugged by the comedian a decade before the sexual encounter for which he is now on trial.
Kelly Johnson, 55, is one of the 13 Cosby accusers whom prosecutors wanted to call to the stand, hoping to show that Cosby’s alleged 2004 assault of Andrea Constand is part of a decades-long pattern. As with dozens of Cosby accusers, the statue of limitations bars Johnson from bringing her charges against Cosby herself.
A resident now of Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a coordinator for a Fortune 500 company, Johnson says she first met Cosby in April 1990 when she lived in Los Angles, working as an assistant to Thomas Illius at the William Morris Talent Agency, whose main client was Bill Cosby.
Johnson said Cosby began getting friendly with her in 1991, calling her once a week at home. Though the calls stopped for a while when she went on maternity leave, Johnson says they resumed when when she came back to work for Illius in 1993.
“I had the utmost respect and adoration of him,” Johnson said.
In 1996, when Johnson was 34 years old, she said Cosby invited her to his home to teach her about “set blocking, camera angles and lighting.”
Refusal was not an option: when Cosby “asked, he was really telling,” she testified.
At Cosby’s home, Johnson said she became uncomfortable while acting out a scene about a woman who was tipsy, walked into the kitchen, embraced a man and kissed him.
“We ran the scene several times,” Johnson said, “and he said I wasn’t participating in the embrace and kiss very well.”
Johnson said she met Cosby later that year at the Bel Air Hotel where they were supposed to talk about her career over lunch. Cosby was staying at a bungalow in the hotel, and Johnson said he answered the door in a bath robe and slippers.
He informed her he was having lunch brought in. “There was water and wine, and we had a little conversation,” Johnson said.
Johnson fought back tears as she continued. “He told me I looked like I needed to relax,” she said, “then he offered a large white pill in his hand.”
Though she had asked what it was, Johnson said Cosby was evasive. “Would I give you anything to hurt you?” she said he had told her. “It will just help you relax.”
Johnson claims she at first only pretended to take the pill, but that Cosby wanted to look inside her mouth to make sure she had swallowed it.
Thoroughly intimidated, Johnson says she took the pill and that her vision soon blurred.
She remembered needing water and then waking up to “grunting sounds” in the bedroom of the bungalow.
Cosby was behind her, she said, with her “dress pulled up from the bottom and down from the top.”
“My breasts were out, and I felt naked,” she said. “I could see a bottle of lotion on the night stand. He put lotion in my hand and…”
Johnson started to hysterically cry and squeaked out, “he made me touch his penis.”
The agent at William Morris reprimanded Johnson when she returned to work. Johnson said Cosby had complained about her, but defense attorney Brian McMonagle undercut this in cross-examination, claiming she was fired for violating an agency policy about fraternizing with clients.
“Didn’t your boss ask if you saw the defendant over the weekend?” he asked.
“He asked if I saw Mr. Cosby,” she replied. “I shook my head no, but I asked him, ‘Are you firing me?”
“So you lied to your boss,” McMonagle said.
“I was embarrassed,” Johnson said.
Johnson spoke to Human Resources, but she said she “couldn’t admit what happened between [herself] and Mr. Cosby because Tom [her boss] didn’t know.”
Human Resources told Johnson she was “obviously stressed out,” and to take the day off, but Johnson never returned to William Morris.
Though Johnson claimed she didn’t remember details about leaving work, the defense questioned her about the worker’s compensation she filed.
Johnson recalled speaking about what happened to her during the worker’s compensation deposition. “It one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever had to do,” she said through tears.
McMonagle provided Johnson with a memo from Human Resources that showed that Johnson actually complained about her boss, Tom Illius, to Human Resources.
Johnson claimed to have never seen that memo before.
The attorney also questioned why Johnson didn’t tell share what happened to her with her parents; her father was a Los Angeles police officer.
“I felt like I was hurting them, by telling them that Mr. Cosby did this to me,” Johnson said. “I felt powerless,” she added tearfully.
Johnson admitted that she met with an attorney, but never followed through. “He asked me if I wanted to be tabloid fodder … and I did not,” she said. “I had a secret about the greatest celebrity in the world, and I was afraid.”
The prosecutor asked Johson if she had consented to sex with Cosby. “No,” she said, “I didn’t.”
When asked if she could consent, she said: “no, I couldn’t.”
McMonagle meanwhile barraged Johnson about whether she had leveled sexual assault claims against her late boss, Tom Illius, or whether she used cocaine with Maxi Priest, a performer with whom she had a child.
Johnson denied both but repeatedly claimed not to remember specifics about her meeting with human resources, her conversations with her boss or timeline of events.
McMonagle then read aloud a letter that Johnson herself wrote to William Morris about taking a medical leave and not being able to return to work until she was well.
“Do you remember that now?” McMonagle asked.
“Yes, I do now,” Johnson said.
McMonagle pressed the witness about several ways her testimony today deviated from previous statements about Cosby.
Contradicting her direct testimony about a lesson on camera angles and lighting, Johnson claimed in a 2014 press release that Cosby lured her into the 1996 meeting because he was going to give her a part in one of his shows
Johnson also told the court Cosby drugged her in 1996, but the deposition for her 1996 worker’s compensation claim says the Bel Air lunch with Cosby was in 1990.
“In your 1996 deposition,” McMonagle pressed, “he tried to push your head down. You said you didn’t want to do it. He said, ‘OK,’ and you claim you drove home. Isn’t that correct?”
“I don’t remember,” Johnson said. “I don’t remember driving home.”
McMonagle voiced frustration with her inconsistencies. “How do you not remember?” he asked. “Did anyone tell you to have selective amnesia in this case?”
Johnson replied “no.”
Judge Steven O’Neill is presiding over Cosby’s jury trial. Johnson’s attorney Gloria Allred was in the courtroom.