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In Cosby Trial, Witness Recounts 1984 Assault At Comedian's Nevada Ranch

Editor's note: This post contains graphic descriptions that some may find disturbing.

Heidi Thomas — the first of several women expected to take the stand against Bill Cosby in his criminal retrial – described to the court on Tuesday how the comedian lured her to his Nevada ranch in 1984, drugged her and then forced her to perform oral sex.

Thomas' testimony against the 80-year-old Cosby on charges that he sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia home in 2004 was meant to bolster the prosecution's case that the defendant has a long history of such assaults. Besides Constand, at least four other women are expected to provide similar testimony.

On the trial's opening day on Monday, prosecutors revealed that Cosby paid a $3.4 million civil settlement to Constand in 2006.

Thomas, a 24-year-old aspiring actor at the time, said Cosby enticed her to fly to Reno on the pretext of giving her career advice.

"I'm a little nobody from Colorado," she said. "And he's this great man."

"He said he was looking forward to giving back to the industry that has given him so much," she told the jury in Norristown, Pa.

As Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY reports:

"Days later, Cosby arranged to have Thomas flown to Reno, Nevada, where she was greeted at the airport by a driver who took her to a remote ranch house outside the city. The driver said it was a getaway Cosby preferred as an escape from the glare of the paparazzi.

... Cosby, dressed in sweat clothes, opened the door and ushered her in. He told her to change into something more comfortable and then meet him in the kitchen with a monologue she wanted to run through."

It was then that she said Cosby suggested acting out a script in which she was to play a drunk character. Although Thomas said she didn't drink, Cosby gave her a glass of white wine as "a prop."

Almost immediately, she said, she felt her mental state powerfully altered. The next thing she remembers is waking up in bed next to Cosby, she said. "I have clothes on. He did not. And I was lying down, and he was forcing himself in my mouth. I remember thinking, 'I feel sick, and how did I get here?'"

WHYY writes: "Kathleen Bliss, a lawyer for Cosby, started at the end of [Tuesday] to stress inconsistencies in Thomas' story, including discrepancies over the time of her flight to Reno [and] the exact date of the alleged assault."

According to The Associated Press, the testimony of Thomas and the other women "could help prosecutors insulate Constand from the defense's contention that she is a 'con artist' who preyed on Cosby's vulnerability after the 1997 killing of his son, Ennis, and then framed him to score a big payday via a $3.4 million civil settlement."

The cross-examination of Thomas by Cosby's defense team was set to continue on Wednesday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.