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How One Witness Says Bill Cosby Ensured His Alleged Victims Were Drugged

Kelly Johnson hid the large white pill Bill Cosby had given her under her tongue, she says, with the intention of spitting it out later; she pretended to swallow it with water, she told a packed Montgomery County courthouse on Monday.

The actor had pressed the pill on her at a bungalow at the Bel-Air Hotel one day in 1996, she said; he’d invited her there for lunch, told her that she needed to relax. “And he said, ‘Lift up your tongue?’ And I did, and there it was, under my tongue.”

“Trust me,” Cosby told her. “Would I give you anything that would hurt you?”

Johnson swallowed the pill.

Scared, she went into the bathroom, where the whole sink was covered with prescription pill bottles, she said. She tried and failed to identify the drug he’d given her: “I was crying a little bit but trying to compose myself, I don’t know how long I’ve been in here, he’s going to wonder what I’m doing in here, very frustrated with myself…” She flushed the toilet and left the bathroom. When she woke up, she was in the bed, with her dress pulled down, she said, Cosby behind her. She doesn’t remember getting home.

Johnson’s boss, the late Tom Illius, was Cosby’s agent; he was the biggest client at William Morris, one of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies. She was Illius’s personal assistant, a humble-sounding gig but in Hollywood, such a job means proximity to world-famous people, a good salary and much prestige. Johnson was dazzled by the special relationship that Cosby developed with her and her family — he invited her, her sisters and parents to a performance in Las Vegas — even though she felt awkward and uncomfortable when he insisted that she not tell Illius about the friendship. She characterized Cosby’s interest in her as “Huxtable-like,” in reference to the avuncular character he played on TV. He was interested in her education, in her future.

Bear in mind that Johnson is not the plaintiff in this case; that’s Andrea Constand, who has yet to testify. Johnson is what is known as a Rule 404(b) witness, brought in to establish a “signature” pattern of criminal behavior on Cosby’s part — in this case, a pattern of incapacitating a younger woman with an intoxicant and then abusing her unconscious body sexually. Johnson is one of thirteen 404(b) witnesses the prosecution asked the judge to permit to testify against Cosby. He finally allowed just one of them, Johnson, to testify. (Late Monday afternoon those of us present in the courtroom learned that there is a chance that Johnson’s mother may also be allowed to testify as to the truth of her daughter’s recollections.)

Read the full report from Cosby’s trial at Death and Taxes.