NORRISTOWN, Pa.—Even though it was years ago, lawyer Joseph Miller said he still remembers the deposition he took back in 1996. It was former William Morris assistant Kelly Johnson pursuing a workers compensation claim agency. On its face, her claim wasn’t surprising, he said, given the stressful conditions of working at William Morris and other agencies like it in Hollywood.
But this deposition stood out.
Miller remembers the first day of the deposition going normally. Johnson answered typical questions about where she lived, what medical treatment she received, and what typically caused her stress. The tenor changed on the second day. That’s when Johnson stopped talking just about her issues with her employer and brought up what happened with William Morris’s biggest client, Bill Cosby.
While testifying today in Cosby’s criminal trial, Miller recalled the details of that conversation. He testified that Johnson had told him that, “Mr. Cosby had invited her to the Bel Air Hotel, a very nice hotel in Los Angeles, and given her a pill to take and some wine to drink, I think, or some sort of alcohol. And she had gotten semi-unconscious because of whatever she had taken, and that he had exposed himself to her and taken some of her clothing off.”
Miller paused before asking District Attorney Kevin Steele, “How detailed do you want me to be?”
“As much as you recall,” Steele replied.
“Well, he had taken out his penis and had put lubricant on his penis and wanted her to fondle him,” Miller said. “She didn’t want to do that. That I do remember.”
Questions about whom Johnson told about Cosby’s alleged assault and when exactly she told them took up much of the first half of the second day of the criminal trial against the comedian. Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County. Those charges are not for what happened with Johnson, but she was allowed to testify as part of the prosecution’s case (no other prior alleged Cosby victims will be testifying). This morning, Miller and Johnson’s mother both testified about what Johnson told them about what happened that day in the Bel Air Hotel’s bungalow.
Miller testified to other details he remembered from the deposition with Johnson. He said Johnson got very upset, saying “she cried several times” during it. William Morris settled the claims soon after the deposition was conducted.
“Best thing I can say is due to the sensitive nature of the testimony in the second deposition, Mr. Rosenstein and I agreed that the deposition transcript would not be prepared,” Miller said, “and it is my belief that at that point in time we either settled the case or started to settle the case.”
(Miller didn’t clarify in his answer who Mr. Rosenstein is, but during cross examination said that the name of Johnson’s lawyer at the time was Larry Rosenstein).
During cross examination, defense lawyer Brian McMonagle tried several times to ask if the deposition included any mention of drug use, but that line of questioning was stopped by an objection. He also emphasized that during the deposition Johnson said the incident at the Bel Air Hotel took place in 1990, although she has since said multiple times it happened in 1996, shortly before she was fired.
Johnson’s mother, Patrice Sewell, also testified about the day her daughter called her crying, saying that she had just overheard Cosby telling her boss (since-deceased William Morris agent Tom Illius) that he had to fire her. She also recalled when her daughter finally told her and her husband what had happened with Cosby.
Sewell said her daughter didn’t go into many details about it when she told her parents, and was nervous the entire time, looking down and then looking up. When they realized that Johnson had said more to her sister, Sewell told her other daughter that she “didn’t want to know.”
Sewell testified that it wasn’t long after what happened at the bungalow that Johnson was fired from William Morris. After that, Sewell said, her daughter changed.
“She changed considerably... she folded in on herself. Her circle of friends became narrower,” Sewell said, adding that even when her daughter went back to work she still seemed to struggle. “Once she started going back to working, she’d go to work, come home. She had very little social life. Her self-esteem was damaged. She lost her ability to take risks on friendships, relationships. Just being around people made her uncomfortable.”
Sewell also talked about how her family had perceived Cosby before their daughter had gotten a job at William Morris. “She knew that we admired him. We watched the Cosby Show and the family related to the show. It kind of reminded us of our own family. I think she was really proud to introduce us,” Sewell said.
Several times during her testimony, Sewell had to stop and gather herself, occasionally crying. But she withstood multiple rounds of questioning by Cosby defense lawyer Angela Agrusa about the time her daughter appeared on TV to detail the alleged assault, and if that had influenced her memory of previous conversations with Johnson.
Later, Sewell would explain that she never told her daughter to go to the police, even though Sewell’s husband was a retired police officer from Los Angeles.
“Because her father didn’t want her to be humiliated. To feel shame, embarrassment that he had seen other women go through when they went to the police at that time,” she said, before pausing to cry.
As she cried, the defense team said, “Objection.” It was sustained, and the judge told the jury that what they had just heard was stricken from the record.