Heidi Thomas outside the courtroom.
Photo: Getty

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—The first of the five women expected to testify that they, like Andrea Constand, were drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby took the stand Tuesday afternoon in the retrial of the disgraced comedian. Thomas has told her story before. She first spoke out in 2015 and was a part of the document Cosby: The Women Speak. But this time, Cosby was in the room, and a conviction depends on whether or not a panel of jurors will believe her.

Thomas told her story. At the time, she said, she was in her early 20s, living in the Denver area, and making a go at seeing if she could have a musical theater or acting career. She worked at the Country Dinner Playhouse as a “glorified waitress” who also could be cast in shows there. She had an agent, but that agent was only for modeling, and she wanted to do acting as well—so she switched to JF Images, which was owned by Jo Farrell and known to be so tough she got nicknamed “the Barracuda.” But her actual agent at the agency was Annie Maloney, a middle-age woman who walked with a cane and acted “like a grandmother.”

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One day, Maloney called her and told her that “a prominent an icon in the entertainment world wanted to mentor promising young talent. And my first thought was ‘Annie’s telling me I’m promising young talent!’ I didn’t know who it was. She simply wanted to know if I would be available for this working-together monitoring. And I said ‘Yeah of course.’”

She was supposed to call a person, she was told, called Mr. C. She later learned it was Cosby, but she had to keep that to herself.

“We only referred to him as Mr. C because other talent in the agency will get very jealous if they find out I’m getting mentoring by someone of this prestige,” Thomas said. “So it was Mr. C.” At times during her testimony, Thomas still referred to Cosby “Mr. C.”

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Sure enough, Cosby called her at home. At the time, she lived with her parents so he spoke to her mom and dad as well. Thomas said his explanation was that she had come highly recommended by her agent and “he was looking forward to giving back to the industry which had given him so much, and this was his way that he could do that.”

The plan, according to her testimony, was for Thomas to fly to Reno, Nevada, to meet with Cosby for the promised mentoring. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele showed pages from Thomas’s scrapbook in court. She’d saved her airplane ticket, her travel itinerary, bought post cards, and taken pictures. She didn’t travel much, Thomas said, and even made a self-effacing tone at how she took pictures with her “Kodak Instamatic.” She even saved two green drink tickets from Harrah’s Reno Hotel and Casino.

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When Thomas arrived in Reno, she was picked up at the airport by a driver but he took her outside the city to what she described as a ranch house. She was told that Cosby preferred to be out here, with space to run, fresh air, more privacy, and less paparazzi. She went along with it because, Thomas said, “she had no reason not to believe this.”

Cosby greeted her at the door, told her to get comfortable, and had her perform a monologue for him at a kitchen table. She said he seemed unimpressed, but also said she wasn’t surprised because “I’m little nobody from Colorado who is with this great man. I didn’t expect him to be thoroughly impressed. That’s why I’m here.” He then asked her to do a cold read in which the character she was reading for was drunk. She agreed, but she said he was still unimpressed with her performance. She testified that he suggested a drink would help, and asked her what she would like. She said a glass of white wine, and soon enough one appeared in front of her.

She said “okay,” took a sip, and said from that point on all she remembers are what describes as “snapshots.”

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“They aren’t even fuzzy. They just aren’t there. I call them snapshots because that what they look like in my head,” she said. “There’s just blank until there’s a picture.”

She said she remembers the kitchen table. Then she remembers waking up on a bed. She has her clothes on, but Cosby does not, she testified. He was lying down and forcing himself in her mouth. She felt sick and didn’t know how she got there.

Next is another snapshot. It’s Cosby’s head at the end of the bed and she’s also on the bed. She remembers the positioning of the lights on the wall and heard Cosby’s voice saying, “You’re with Mr. C, your friend” and “Your friend is gonna come again.” She kept thinking “How did I get here this isn’t what I’m here for?” And that ends another snapshot.

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The next snapshot is her slamming the door to that room, and realizing she had just slammed the door on Bill Cosby. She remembers opening the door and saying she’s sorry that “she didn’t mean for that door to slam” and then closed it very carefully.

And after that, it’s the next day. She testified that she woke up, told the chef she wanted nothing to eat, and went outside to clear her head and try to figure out what happened. She took some more photos, which were presented to jurors. She said it never even occurred to her to call her agents and ask about all this.

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“I didn’t know what had happen and this whole thing was set up by the agency,” Thomas said. “So you don’t call the head of the agency, the Barracuda, and say what I thought just happened. You don’t call her and say, ‘Did you just set me up?’”

Instead, Thomas said, she figured “I must have said something that made him think this was acceptable. I must have given some signal that, you know, she’s the kind she’s gonna sleeper way to the top.” She decided she would just have to move on.

She still didn’t recall what had happened, was worried about her reputation, and also feared she might have somehow made a mistake or angered Cosby. So Thomas reached out to one of Cosby’s representatives, and they worked out that she would see Cosby when he had a stop in St. Louis. This time, Thomas paid for her trip. Thomas met him there, brought her camera, and took more photos, but Cosby met her at at a restaurant and had her join him at a table with several other people. She soon realized that she wouldn’t be able to ask him her questions in such a setting, and the driver and valet made it very clear that afterward they were taking her back to her place. She did get one picture of her with Cosby, but she said he “wasn’t very happy” after the flash went off.

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“It was clear whatever this mentorship thing is wasn’t happening, I wasn’t getting answers,” she said.

She left acting soon afterward, got married, started a family, and became a music teacher. She said she has never gotten a settlement from Cosby and was not represented by a lawyer.

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Then came cross examination, from Kathleen Bliss, one of Cosby’s lawyers. She began by asking questions about how Thomas got into acting and her time as a beauty queen—Miss Littleton—while in college (Thomas said she was not a “pageant person” but did it for the scholarship money.) Bliss had questions about the Harrah’s drink tickets because, by Thomas’s own account, she didn’t actually remember going to Harrah’s. Thomas said she couldn’t remember how and why she got them “because I can’t remember anything after that first sip.” Thomas just knows she got them, somehow, because they ended up in her scrapbook.

Bliss also asked Thomas about a cassette-tape recorder she had brought with her. Thomas said that, yes, she did bring one because she wanted to record her lessons with Cosby. When she woke up feeling sick, she talked into the cassette tape but left out the assault because “I couldn’t have my mom hearing me like that.” She shoved the tape in a drawer and eventually threw it out, she said, “after the psychologist visits and working through a lot of stuff and thinking ‘I’m done. I don’t want to deal with it anymore.’” Bliss also asked about the timeline of when Thomas arrived in Reno, suggesting the hot weather and bright daylights didn’t line up with the date and time on her ticket.

Bliss asked Thomas a few questions about when she was interviewed by Cheltenham Township police. But then the cross examination had to end as court was wrapping up for the day. The cross examination of Thomas will resume tomorrow morning.