Apr 19, 2018, 10:40 PM ET

Cosby defense expert reveals he Googled side effects of Benadryl for report

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In the roughest day yet for Bill Cosby’s defense team, a so-called toxicology expert acknowledged on the stand on Thursday that he had Googled data for his expert report, that his sole active license was a driver’s license and that one of the scholarly publications he listed on his curriculum vitae was in fact a letter to the editor.

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At one point during an exacting cross-examination, Maryland toxicologist Dr. Harry Milman suggested to a prosecutor probing his credentials that he distribute copies of Milman’s two fiction thrillers to jurors in the stately Pennsylvania courtroom.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after day fourteen of his sexual assault retrial, April 19, 2018, in Norristown, Penn.Mark Makela/Getty Images
Bill Cosby departs the Montgomery County Courthouse after day fourteen of his sexual assault retrial, April 19, 2018, in Norristown, Penn.

“Maybe you’d like to pass them out to the jury,” Milman told Stewart Ryan, an assistant district attorney for Montgomery County, where the world-famous comedian has an estate in a suburb outside of Philadelphia.

Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, for allegedly drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his estate in 2004. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison on each count. He has pleaded not guilty.

Cosby has adamantly denied ever drugging or sexually assaulting anyone ever, though dozens of women have come forward publicly to say they believe he knocked them out and sexually assaulted them.

Five of those women took the stand last week to tell notably similar accounts to Constand’s story. All but Constand’s allegations fall outside the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. A number of the women are suing the entertainer in civil court.

A previous trial last summer ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. This time around, Cosby has a whole new defense team employing a more aggressive strategy than the previous team to save the Philadelphia native from a prison cell.

PHOTO: Bill Cosby and Andrew Wyatt in Norristown, Penn, during his retrial, April 19, 2018.William T Wade Jr/Shutterstock
Bill Cosby and Andrew Wyatt in Norristown, Penn, during his retrial, April 19, 2018.

With defense attorneys spinning in their chairs every few minutes to see the clock on the back wall without having to look at their watches in front of a jury, Milman conceded during a particularly thorny patch of cross-examination that a key figure he’d quoted under direct examination about the effect of sedatives on the central nervous system came from a web search.

Milman testified in his report and on the stand that only about 1 to 10 percent of people experience the side effects of diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl.

Ryan, holding a copy of a peer-reviewed medical compendium that put the common side effects figure at about 50 percent, moved in.

“What was the source of the information?” he asked Milman.

“I went online,” the witness replied, “which is a common thing to do these days.”

“Did you Google it?” Ryan asked.

“Yes,” the toxicologist replied, after a pause.

Cosby told Constand’s mother in a phone call after the alleged assault that he had merely given her daughter Benadryl, an over-the-counter antihistamine used to treat allergies and colds that also has sedative effects on some users.

Prosecutors suspect but cannot prove that Cosby actually gave the former professional women’s basketball player something stronger.

In both trials, prosecutors have been permitted to read into evidence portions of Cosby’s sworn testimony during a deposition in a civil lawsuit Constand brought against him and that he settled in 2006 for $3.38 million.

In the deposition, he said he carried prescription Quaaludes around in the 1970s to share what were referred to in court testimony as “disco biscuits” to potential sex partners with their consent. He said he did so with at least one young woman at the time, prior to sex.

No evidence has been presented at trial that Cosby gave Constand Quaaludes.

But Constand’s mother testified that after telling her he gave her daughter Benadryl, he cryptically promised to get the name of the drug on his “prescription" and mail it to her, though he said he never did.

The toxicologists were on hand to sort out the science, but much of the day was consumed with the colorful defense expert’s testimony.

When it seemed like every jaw in the courtroom had hit the floor, Milman acknowledged that under the criteria he was using, a Viagra-fueled rape would be categorized as a drug-facilitated sexual assault -- the felony with which Cosby is charged.

Still, the doctor seemed to pivot quickly, glancing sidelong at a box of wide-eyed jurors to confide that the man’s “defense was, if you will, the Viagra made me do it!”

At another point, Ryan quizzed Milman on his credentials and asked if in fact one of the scholarly articles on his CV was actually “a reply to a letter to the editor?” Milman conceded the point.

In an unusual arrangement sanctioned by the judge aiming to keep the case moving in deference to a sequestered jury, the prosecution closed their case on Wednesday but re-opened it on Thursday to call a final expert witness who wasn’t available until today.

That set the stage for dueling toxicologist testimony. Ultimately the two differed on one key point.

Dr. Timothy Rohrig, the prosecution expert, testified that it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the sedative effects of Benadryl to take hold -- which is consistent with Constand’s account of being drugged and molested by the entertainer at his Elkins Park estate in early 2004.

Milman, the defense expert, countered that it takes about an hour, which is inconsistent with Constand’s account of seeing double, getting dizzy and passing out within several minutes of taking pills she testified were given to her by Cosby and sipping wine.

Rohrig testified for less than half an hour, while Milman’s testimony crossed the four-hour mark late Thursday afternoon before grinding to a close around 6 p.m.

Milman, a friendly, veteran toxicologist, spent time as a pioneering pharmacist on an American Indian reservation, and nearly two decades at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Unlike Rohrig, however, he is not a forensic toxicologist. He is a toxicologist, but let his medical license lapse after retiring.

Asked whether he holds any active licenses, he replied with a straight face that “I hold a driver’s license.”

Defense testimony continues on Friday.

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  • Kathy Harrington

    Milman was also a pharmacist, and had lifelong credentials, if this "journalist" had bothered to look. Sedative effects may begin in 15 minutes. but not what Constand described, i.e. paralysis and cotton mouth. Cosby has maintained that she was never ill at his home, and never said she was feeling ill. In fact, he describes in detail how active she actually was during their necking session.

    Q. How long was she there before you gave her the pills?
    A. Maybe the same amount of time, 15, 20 minutes of talking.
    Q. Do you remember what you were wearing that night?
    A. No, I don't.
    Q. Do you remember what she was wearing?
    A. She had on leather pants, some kind of top that I could lift and get to a brassiere which would lift from the front exposing her breasts.
    Q. At any time did you say anything to her about your desire to go to the sofa and to peck or neck as you said?
    A. I said nothing about my desire.
    Q. Did you say anything to her about going to the sofa to have this sexual contact?
    A. I said nothing about going to the sofa to have sexual contact.
    Q. You said that she went to the bathroom and you asked her to have a sit down on the sofa. What did you mean by that?
    A. I' m sitting on the sofa and as opposed to have her just stand or sit in another chair someplace, I suggested that she sit on the sofa next to me.
    Q. What did she do?
    A. She sat on the sofa next to me.
    Q. You also told us at some point in time she was on top of you. When did that happen?
    A. As the time of the necking grew.
    Q. How long were you on the sofa necking?
    A. I have no idea. It wasn't long, long, long.
    Q. We know time is relevant. Do you have any estimates?
    A. Time is not relative if you're necking, you lose time.
    Q. Was it an hour, half an hour?
    A. I don't think so.
    Q. It's less than an hour?
    A. I don't know. I don't think at that time that there's an hour of just necking.
    Q. How long would you estimate you were necking an the couch?
    A. Less than 15 minutes, less than 20 minutes.
    Q. You said when you went upstairs you set the alarm. What time was it?
    A. I don't remember. I just know that I wanted to wake up before daylight.
    Q. Why was that?
    A. So that she could leave without staff people seeing her leave.
    Q. How long was she on top of you?
    A. Maybe five minutes.
    Q. Where are her hands when she's on top of you?
    A. They were around me.
    Q. What part of your body?
    A. They were touching me. There was movement all around. The position is like so and she is like this and so she's on top and her right leg is between my left leg and my right leg and her left leg is on the outside of my right leg and her head is up and I'm talking to her.
    Q. What are you saying?
    A. I'm asking her to press her genitalia to my knee and move it.
    Q. What is she doing?
    A. She's doing it.
    Q. Where are her hands at that point?
    A. Propping her up.
    Q. Did She ever touch your p e n i s that night?
    A. Yes.
    Q. When was that?
    A. When I was behind her.
    Q. What was she doing?
    A. She touched it. Maybe for six seconds or so.
    Q. Did you ask her to touch it more?
    A. No.
    Q. Did you ever ask her to bring you to climax?
    A. No.
    Q. Why not?
    A. I wasn't interested in it. I was interested in it for her.
    Q. Now, you said that you were in the spooning position with your face on her ear?
    A. Well, it's sort bf behind her ear, yes.
    Q. At any time while you were behind hero did you give her a massage on her shoulders or arms?
    A. No, I went straight--as I told you before. My left arm is out and her head, her neck is cradled by my elbow and I'm like this and I go--
    Q. With your right hand down her pants?
    A. Right.
    Q. How long were you in that position?
    A. With my hands in her pants?
    Q. Yes.
    A. Maybe less than--I think less than 10 minutes.
    Q. After you believe she had the o r g a s m, did you immediately get up?
    A. No.
    Q. How long did you lay there?
    A. Time is difficult. I don't know. We're not there longer than five minutes.
  • The Vicarious Wilma Fingerdew

    I don't allow ABC fake news in my home. It's racist and biased reporting. The didn't fact check the accusations against Dr Cosby and they certainly have no interest in his being found innocent of these manufactured crimes.

  • Daphne Girl

    when are the 'legitimate' news sources going to start reporting truthfully and without the glaring bias (a so-called toxicology expert acknowledged). When are they going to report on Con's lies and her background and the obvious? Instead we keep getting the same types of bias. Something good happens for the defense, like they've proved Cosby wasn't even around when Con says this happened, and we get a headline of "Defense trying to convince jurors" instead of 'new evidence provided proved Cosby was not in PA at the time...' This is the norm for the media. And you wonder why no one trusts you?

  • JayRaskin

    Cosby's expert has a Ph.D. in pharmacology and has worked in the field for over 40 years. Milman has 70 works in peer-reviewed scientific magazines. Even if one of them was only a letter to the editor, that still leaves him with 69 works. DA Steele's expert, Rohrig, only has 20 peer-reviewed articles works.

    Rohrig wrongly stated that benadryl stopped making blue pills in 2009. He was apparently embarrassed when the defense council Katherine Bliss showed him blue pills that she had purchased yesterday.

    By googling you can find access to an enormous amount of information including all relevant scientific magazines. Anybody can easily find out that the main ingredient in Benadryl is diphenhydramine and it is used in the leading sleep aids, antihistamines for allegies and cold tablets, such as zzzquil, sominex, and advil PM. Probably a 100 million Americans take it annually. The number of people who have been known in the United States to use it to render a person paralyzed or unconscious for sexual assault is zero. As Dr. Milman said, it is one of the safest drugs on the market.

    Both experts agreed that the paralysis that Constand claimed prevented her from saying "stop" to Cosby is not a side effect of either benadryl or quaaludes, and quaaludes never came in blue pills. Thus, the prosecution cannot say what drug Constand took, and the jury cannot determine if her symptoms were real or made up later. That alone should create enough doubt that she was drugged that the jury should return an innocent verdict.

    This article did not relate the truth of what actually happened at the trial, but merely ridiculed and attacked a defense expert witness for making a joke. It forgot to mention that he was effective in destroying the prosecution's case.

  • Millard Farquar

    Makes me want to eat some Jello!

  • Bwaaah

    It's all just a co-incidence.

  • Jenna
    No evidence has been presented at trial that Cosby gave Constand Quaaludes.

    Nor will it ever, because Quaaludes were taken off the US market 30 years ago... largely because of people like him using them for... erm, "recreational" purposes. Plus, people were taking them just to get high - probably FAR more than were using them responsibly for a diagnosed medical condition.

  • Jenna

    Sounds like every qualified expert they approached told them no. That's a very bad sign for his defense.

  • Judy

    good bye Bill

  • Gargos

    This expert sounds like most Trump supporters on these boards: try to argue it out with an actual MD using "facts" you looked up on Google.

  • bibleexpert

    In the deposition, he said he carried prescription Quaaludes around in the 1970s to share what were referred to in court testimony as “disco biscuits” to (sic) potential sex partners with their consent.

    And, of course, is there anything that turns you on more than dropping a few Quaaludes just before sex? It seems Cosby can't deny the quaalude accusations, so made up some ludicrous excuse for handing them out.

  • Lance

    Even if he did 10 of the 30 years, it would most likely be a death sentence.
    With a net worth of 400 million, he won't be hurting for canteen money though.

  • 3CallFinagle

    In related news, Dr. Milman was just this morning named as Surgeon General of the United States.

  • Emma Lou #2

    a comedian with a comedy of a defense. diphenhydramine was originally released otc as a sleep aid.

  • hold-the-phone

    Sounds like this guy should apply to hire on for El Presidente*, now that Cohen's pretty much hobbled by "other matters"... /s ("I hold a driver's license..." Indeed.)

  • Ray

    "Disco biscuits" indeed! Cosby probably doesn't even think he's done anything wrong since he started the party scene in an era where it was common to load women up with drugs until they were catatonic and take advantage of them with no consequences.

  • ken

    Why not skip the formalities and brand him as guilty right now, its obvious where this is heading,

  • Weather3014

    Google may index the articles in the search results, but it does not provide the content of the actual articles and sites, and the search generally includes PubMed articles too. So I am not sure why using Google impugns the results of the final report? The quality of the information is entirely contained in the actual articles that were used and not how they were found.

  • Thomas

    If you are going to use Google, at least use Google Scholar.

  • Armed and Psychotic Loner

    Still a better performance than Betsy DeVos on "60 Minutes."