Donna Motsinger was shopping at Smith's grocery store in Taos Thursday (April 26) when she got the call that put to rest what she described as decades of fear, shame and frustration. Bill Cosby, the once beloved star of "The Cosby Show," had been found guilty of sexual assault.
In 2014, Motsinger joined at least 60 other women and alleged victims when she came forward publicly with her own accusations against Cosby, claiming the comedian had drugged and raped her in California in 1972.
Motsinger said Thursday's call came from a fellow "survivor," who told her that a jury had delivered the verdict at a retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby, 80, was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee. According to Pennsylvania state statutes, Cosby could spend up to 30 years in prison as a result of the guilty finding.
"Sometimes our justice system doesn't work," Motsinger, 76, told The Taos News, "but here it worked beautifully, and it's all because of Andrea – and the rest of us."
Constand's case grew from a civil lawsuit she filed against Cosby in 2005. Motsinger and a dozen other women joined the suit, but did so anonymously, under the name "Jane Doe."
Motsinger credits Constand, now 44, with being the first of many women to come forward with claims of assault perpetrated by Cosby over a roughly 50-year period. In the details, many of their accounts overlap.
According to a criminal complaint filed with the Montgomery County court system, Cosby had introduced himself to Constand as a kind of "mentor" in the early 2000s, offering career advice and what initially appeared to be friendship. Then, in 2004, after making multiple unwanted sexual advances, Cosby invited Constand to his home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, where he gave her pills and raped her.
For years before Motsinger heard Constand's account, she said she thought she was "the only one."
In 1972, Motsinger said she met Cosby in Sausalito, California while working as a waitress at a restaurant run by the Kingston Trio, a popular folk band at the time. The venue was a "go-to" destination for celebrities, she said. According to Motsinger, Cosby became a regular, and befriended her and her then 8-year-old son.
Motsinger declined to go into details, but said that Cosby drugged and raped her that year. She returned from the experience "devastated," she said.
Her son, one of many children of the era who looked up to Cosby, questioned her about what had happened while she was away. Motsinger told him in a way he might understand. "He hurt me," she said, and later shared the complete story with her husband, whom she met in 1974, not long before they moved to Taos County.
For the next 30 years, she didn't say another word.
"Back then, it didn't even process for me as criminal or as rape," Motsinger said. "All I knew was that I couldn't tell anybody. The kids in our family adored him. He was 'America's dad.' "
After joining Constand's lawsuit in 2005, Motsinger found herself connected to a network of women she hadn't known existed.
"Every one of us had fear and guilt and trepidation," Motsinger said. "There are so many of us."
Constand herself has become "like a daughter" to Motsinger, and has regularly visited Taos as her case has moved through the Pennsylvania court system over the course of more than a decade.
As of Thursday afternoon, Motsinger said she hadn't yet spoken to Constand about the outcome of the case, but could imagine she shares in her sense of relief.
"I've walked with her every step of the way," Motsinger said.
The jury's decision on Thursday is an affirmation of her experience, she said, as well as many others, serving as part of a growing acknowledgement of sexual assault as a pervasive issue in the United States.
She said attitudes on that subject have shifted dramatically over the course of her lifetime, but also pointed to the fact that Cosby is the first of any celebrity accused of sexual assault to be convicted in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
"We're the first ones to get justice," she said, "but things definitely haven't gone far enough. I was silent for a long time, and that's what I don't ever want to see again: for women to feel like they have to be silent."