Associated Press

Topless Protester Accused of Rushing Bill Cosby Ahead of Retrial Was on His Show in the 1990s

Nicolle Rochelle is accused of causing a commotion as Bill Cosby arrived for his retrial on sexual assault charges

A topless protester with "Women's Lives Matter" written on her body jumped a barricade and got within a few feet of Bill Cosby on Monday as the comedian walked into a suburban Philadelphia courthouse for the start of his sexual assault retrial.

"Protesting Bill Cosby was important for us because he is a man who has been disempowering Women's bodies for decades and in being naked today, I was symbolically taking back the ownership of all the victims’ bodies and redefining it as a political tool as opposed to a sexual object," Nicolle Rochelle wrote in a released statement.

Rochelle, 38, was charged with disorderly conduct for darting in front of Cosby. Rochelle appeared a few times on The Cosby Show in the early 1990s, according to her IMDB page

"When I was 12 years old I did recur on the Cosby show but regardless of whether I had been on the show or not, I would have been there today protesting on behalf of Femen and for the rights of women worldwide," Rochelle wrote in a released statement.

She acted on the show under the name Nicole Leach. A friend confirmed the appearances.

The New Jersey native who currently lives in France is accused of disrobing and lunging in front of the comedian and his entourage as they walked into the Montgomery County Courthouse Monday morning. Her body was scrawled with the names of dozens of Cosby accusers as well as the words "Women's Lives Matter." 

Television cameras captured sheriff's officers pulling her into a bush before she was handcuffed and led away. 

Corey Perrine/AP
A protester is detained after charging in front of Bill Cosby as he arrived for his sexual assault trial at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Monday, April 9, 2018, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. See Larger

Cosby seemed startled by the commotion as a half-dozen protesters chanted at him.

"I wanted him to not be comfortable, in the very least," she told NBC10. "I don't think it was fair that these women are now uncomfortable for the rest of their lives."

Authorities told Rochelle to stay away from the courthouse, a warning she said she will heed.

Rochelle, an actress, said she didn't have any bad experiences with Cosby when she was on the show, nor did she intend to physically hurt him.

"He was funny and he was like a father figure," she said. "So you could imagine when I found out these allegations later on, it definitely hit home to some degree."

She is a member of the European feminist group Femen, which is known for staging topless protests around the world.

She posted a photo of herself wearing a "Hello Friend" sweatshirt with friend crossed out and "Rapist" written below on Facebook Monday morning. In the post, she claims the photo was taken in front of the address used for exteriors on "The Cosby Show" and calls for justice to "finally be served." 

Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt praised deputies for their quick action but urged court officials to increase security.

"It's a different world. Things have changed," Wyatt told The Associated Press, referring to recent mass shootings and other episodes. "You never know who's going to want to make a name for themselves."

The disruption came ahead of opening statements, which were delayed while the judge sorted through allegations raised late Friday that a juror told a woman during jury selection that he thought Cosby was guilty. Cosby's lawyers want the juror removed from the case.

Prosecutors have lined up a parade of accusers to make the case that the man revered as "America's Dad" lived a double life as one of Hollywood's biggest predators.

Cosby is fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy: attacking Andrea Constand and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.

"You've seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed," said professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Cosby's first trial last spring ended with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial is set to begin Monday. But don’t expect a repeat of last year’s trial.

The 80-year-old comedian, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

His retrial is taking place in a radically changed and potentially more hostile environment. The #MeToo movement caught fire four months after the first trial, raising awareness of sexual misconduct as it toppled Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Al Franken, Matt Lauer and other powerful men.

Nearly every potential juror questioned for the case this time knew about #MeToo.

Kristen Houser of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center said that could help prosecutors overcome the skepticism some jurors had last time about Constand's yearlong wait to report her allegations to the police.

"The #MeToo movement is amplifying what experts have been saying for decades: People are ashamed, they're confused, they can't believe somebody they trust would hurt them, and then they worry that others won't believe them," Houser said.

After limiting the focus of the first trial, Judge Steven O'Neill has been willing to let both sides push the retrial well beyond Constand's allegations.

This time, O'Neill is letting prosecutors have five additional accusers testify — including model Janice Dickinson — as they attempt to show Cosby made a habit of drugging and violating women. The judge allowed just one other accuser to take the stand last time.

"This one will be harder for the defense," Levenson said. This time, Constand "is not alone, and there is strength in numbers."

In another difference, the judge this time is letting Cosby's legal team call as a witness a former co-worker of Constand's at Temple University who said Constand spoke of setting up a "high-profile person" so she could sue and enjoy a big payday. Constand's lawyer has said the co-worker is lying.

The judge also decided the jury can hear the answer to one of the biggest questions hanging over the case: How much did Cosby pay Constand to settle her lawsuit against him more than a decade ago? The two sides agreed at the first trial not to mention the lawsuit.

Cosby lawyer Tom Mesereau, who won an acquittal in Michael Jackson's 2005 child molestation case, said the jury will learn "just how greedy" Constand was.

In a twist, the judge hinted that he might not allow jurors to hear Cosby's lurid deposition testimony about giving quaaludes to women before sex. He said he would rule on it during the trial. Cosby testified in 2005 and 2006 as part of Constand's lawsuit.

The Associated Press and NBC News do not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand and Dickinson have done.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us