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Mother of Bill Cosby accuser says her daughter ‘folded in on herself’ after alleged encounter with star

Bill Cosby at his sexual assault trial on June 6, 2017. (Matt Rourke / Pool)

The mother of a woman who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault said that her daughter was so shaken by her interaction with the entertainer that she could no longer form meaningful social bonds.

“It almost appeared like she folded in on herself,” Patrice Sewell, the mother of accuser Kelly Johnson, testified at Cosby’s trial in another case Monday. “Her self-esteem was really damaged. She lost her ability to take risks on friendships, relationships. Just being around a lot of people made her uncomfortable.”

According to Johnson, a former assistant at the William Morris Agency, Cosby provided her with a pill that temporarily knocked her unconscious and then initiated nonconsensual sexual activity with her at the Bel-Air Hotel in 1996. Sewell said that Cosby’s alleged actions would, in the subsequent years, make her daughter “anxious, depressed, sad.”

Sewell, who has a doctorate in educational administration, added that her daughter was “terrified [and] withdrew.”

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But the defense questioned whether it was, in fact, Cosby who was responsible for Johnson’s state of mind and not conflicts at work and other personal struggles.

“You weren’t there to see what she told you was correct, right?” Angela Agrusa, the Southern California-based attorney for the entertainer, said to Sewell on cross-examination. Agrusa cited in particular tension with the late Tom Illius, Johnson’s boss and Cosby’s agent at William Morris, as a reason why she had become stressed..

Sewell waved aside the claim. “I’m here to tell what I know about what happened to my daughter,” she said..

Sewell’s testimony followed Johnson’s own remarks to the court Monday, in which she said that Cosby invited her to his hotel bungalow, where he assaulted her. “I was very afraid,” she tearfully told the court. “He was the biggest celebrity in the world at the time. And it was just me. It was just me.”

Cosby is on trial in a Montgomery County courthouse here on three counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from a 2004 sexual encounter with former Temple University employee Andrea Constand that the prosecution says was not consensual. Prosecutors called Johnson as a witness to demonstrate that Cosby had a pattern of behavior he followed in assaulting women that helps prove his guilt in the Constand case. Cosby is not on trial for any alleged incidents with Johnson.

Meanwhile, a lawyer who represented William Morris when Johnson brought a workers’ compensation suit against the agency, said he found her similarly distraught when she recounted the alleged Cosby Bel-Air incident to him.

“I remember she cried several times during the deposition,” said the attorney, Joseph Miller, as he recalled Johnson telling him about Cosby exposing himself and seeking to have her pleasure him. The agency reached a settlement with Johnson when she was dismissed after the alleged encounter, paying her about $10,000 for stress-related reasons, Miller said.

Brian McMonagle, Cosby’s lead defense attorney, suggested as he cross-examined Miller that Illius was a primary factor in her distress, a similar line of attack that the defense took with Sewell. The defense scored a bigger victory, though, when Miller testified that the Bel-Air incident, as Johnson explained it to him during the deposition, occurred in 1990. Johnson testified that it happened in 1996.

As the second day of the Cosby trial unfolded, the state witnesses were intended to corroborate Johnson’s testimony. The prosecution hopes to bolster her credibility and convince the jury of a Cosby pattern. The defense is eager to erode Johnson’s credibility and her account of a Cosby assault.

The defense received a boost when the Canadian detective who initially investigated Constand’s claim in January 2005 took the stand following Miller.

The detective, David Mason from Constand’s native Ontario, said she told him that she had gone out to dinner with Cosby and a few friends in the Philadelphia area the night of the incident, a narrative that supports the defense’s claim that Cosby and Constand had been friendly or romantic before they ended up at his home.

Mason also noted that Constand had said Cosby called the pills he gave her “purple pills.” When she took them, Mason testified, "She said they made her incapacitated; her legs felt like jelly." He described her behavior as she told him about the alleged incident as “nervous, maybe a little embarrassed.”

The day in court is later expected to yield an expert witness on toxicology, with Constand herself likely to testify later in the week.

Cosby did not have a former co-star at his side Tuesday making a show of support as he did Monday, when “The Cosby Show” star Keshia Knight Pulliam entered the courtroom with him.

Still, the proceedings were not without a “Cosby Show” personality. Lili Bernard, a Cosby accuser who appeared in the last season of the NBC series, sat in the courtroom as Johnson’s state of mind was recounted from the stand. Bernard held flowers symbolizing victims’ rights and wore a “We Stand With Truth” badge.


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