Meet the 5 incredible women who were responsible for sending Bill Cosby down
When the Bill Cosby rape trial ended with a hung jury in 2017, it wasn't difficult to pinpoint what went wrong. The one criminal prosecution case to emerge from dozens of similar allegations saw just one alleged victim, besides central figure Andrea Constand, testify against The Cosby Show star. This is despite roughly 50 other women accusing him of sexual assault, and the trial was mostly left down to "he said, she said", with the jury deadlocking on the final day.
When it came to the retrial 10 months later, things had changed. With the #MeToo movement emerging, giving women a platform to speak up about the harrowing experiences they had endured over the years, the second hearing was due to take place in a different world. This world was enlightened to the sexual harassment and assault that women are sometimes forced to contend with on a daily basis; this time, not one, but five courageous witnesses become eligible to take the stand and give their accounts of drugging and assaults by Cosby. These women are being named "the difference makers".
While Cosby denies all accusations, and it wasn't possible for any of these five to bring their own cases against the TV star - largely due to the statute of limitations - they were the women who helped the jury come to the conclusion that Cosby's actions couldn't be just an isolated incident, but rather a pattern of behaviour. Each of these women, as well as the dozens of others who came forward, showed bravery and determination in the face of adversity and we have them to thank for helping to pull back the mask of America's Dad to expose him for what he was.
Janice Baker-Kinney was reportedly so nervous when she testified about being assaulted by Cosby in 1982 that she sat on her hands. "My hands were shaking so much that I had to use two hands to pick up a cup of water," she stated in an interview on Friday. But her determination paid off in the end when she testified about an incident that occurred more than two decades ago. Baker-Kinney claimed that Cosby gave her two pills (that she believed were "mood enhancers") that made her pass out, then awoke to find her pants undone and Cosby next to her on a couch with his hand inside her open blouse. After she passed out again, she allegedly woke to find herself naked in bed with the former TV star touching her inappropriately again.
Nonetheless, the freelance stage manager stood strong as she was questioned on the witness stand - even in the face of Cosby's aggressive lead attorney, who she "traded verbal jabs" with. According to reports, Thomas Mesereau was keen to paint her as a money-grabbing liar who relied on medication to get her through the day. However, unflinching Baker-Kinney was "unflappable", calling out the lawyer for rolling his eyes at her and turning back his attempts to dent her credibility. When the guilty verdict finally came, she described herself as "overwhelmed with joy, relief and gratitude."
Heidi Thomas was a 24-year-old aspiring actress who was taken under Cosby's wing back in 1984. Inviting her round for "mentoring", the now 80-year-old comedian allegedly gave her a drink, ostensibly as a prop for a role as a drunk person, and told her to sip on it. The Colorado teacher claims next thing she remembered was waking up with Cosby "forcing himself in her mouth", saying to her, “I’m your friend … your friend is gonna [ejaculate] again.”
When asked what it was like to finally face Cosby in court in April, 2018, the school teacher - who gave up acting after the incident - had one word for everyone: "empowering". She told news outlets: "The district attorney gave me a chance to speak my truth, to speak out and say, 'This is what happened to me and it’s wrong'. And he has to be held accountable. Cosby had to sit there and listen. He had no choice. You get to look at that person in the face and say, 'You didn't win. I'm still here. And you're going down.'"
Chelan Lasha reportedly began crying when she was sworn in on the witness stand, but her sobs are by no means to be taken as weakness. She went on to bravely give her account of The Cosby Show actor giving her 17-year-old self a small blue pill to help a cold and then waking to him clapping his hands and saying "Daddy says wake up", giving her $1,500 and telling her to "buy something nice for herself". "I couldn’t say nothing," she told the court, sobbing. "'What are you doing…and why are you doing this to me?’ You’re supposed to help me be successful.'"
After Cosby was convicted by the jury, Lasha, who spends her days caring for her aging father in Palmdale, California, stated that "thirty-two years of nightmares and tears" were finally over. She will perhaps be remembered for instigating one of the most memorable exchanges in the courtroom. As Judge Steven O’Neill stopped her testimony to go on lunch break, Lasha reportedly turned to look straight at Cosby and said: "You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
Former model Janice Dickinson was another woman who was allegedly torn apart by Cosby's defence lawyers on the stand. Using the book she wrote against her, they asked her "you've dated married men, haven't you? ... in the book you sleep with married men all the time," as well as pointing out specific pictures of her in the same book. Regardless of attacks coming from all quarters, the American model stood strong, refusing to let the attorney's interrogation beat her. Claiming that she had been "slut-shamed", afterwards the 63-year-old stated:
"When I walked into the courtroom and I saw Cosby out of the corner of my eye I had a feeling of disgust that enveloped me, to be honest. I wanted to fly across the room and scratch his eyes out. I just did. I really wanted to punch him in the face. When I was on the stand and being accused of being a failed starlet and a washed-up model, being called a liar, and slut-shaming me, I just sat there and I got mad. 'How does he sleep at night?’ I was thinking to myself. And to be accused of sleeping with every man on the planet that’s just wrong. I hope Bill Cosby rots in prison. He deserves every bit of 30 years and more."
In 1989, Lise-Lotte Lublin was a 23-year-old model when she was informed that Bill Cosby wanted to meet her. Under the pretence of giving her acting lessons, Cosby reportedly invited her to his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton and gave her a shot of brown liquid to relax her. She states that the next thing she recalls is Cosby touching her hair and putting his legs near her arms. Believing that she had had a bad reaction to alcohol since she wasn't a frequent drinker, Lublin states that it was only 25 years after their encounter that she realised what happened when she saw the entertainer's accusers speaking of their experiences on TV.
But when she was called as a witness, Cosby was no longer in control. The teacher stated: "Walking into the courtroom and knowing he was in there, I had no intimidation. He had no more power, no control over me, no more power over me." She and her husband are now hoping to change the laws that kept her from bringing her own case against Cosby, lobbying to extend the statute of limitations to bring civil charges for sexual assault from two years to 20 years. "No one should ever have to suffer what we had to hear and say that there isn't anything you can do about it," Lublin says.
We commend these five women, as well as Andrea Constand and the dozens of other women who accuse Bill Cosby, for finding the courage to stand up and give their accounts of their alleged harrowing experiences in front of the world - because of them, justice has been served.