Sunni Welles, who accused Bill Cosby of assault, dead at 72

An actress who accused Bill Cosby of assaulting her in the 1960s is dead at age 72.

Sunni Welles died on Monday following a battle with lung cancer, her son confirmed.

Welles started her acting career at just 10 years old when she appeared in sitcoms “Leave It to Beaver” and “My Three Sons.”

She was renowned for her friendship with Elvis Presley, which blossomed when she toured the world as a singer and dancer.

Welles went on to marry fellow singer and actor John O’Banion, with whom she shared a son before their divorce. She is survived by her son, Shaun O’Banion.

In the late 1990s, she retired from acting and performed as a jazz soloist with her band Shiver.

She then went on to settle down in Santa Monica, California, and worked as a spiritual medium until she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Back in 2015, Welles joined the mass of women who accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault, who she met on the set of TV series “I Spy.”

She said she was a 17-year-old aspiring singer at the time of her encounter with Cosby, which took place in the mid-1960s in Hollywood after a visit to a jazz club.

Sunni Welles speaks at a 2018 news conference in Norristown, Pennsylvania, after Bill Cosby was sentenced for sexual assault.
Sunni Welles speaks at a 2018 news conference in Norristown, Pennsylvania, after Bill Cosby was sentenced.
AP

‘HE WAS A STAR’

In a statement, she claimed that she ordered a Coke at the club. She added that she did not remember leaving the club and later woke up in an apartment naked and alone, feeling as though she had had sex.

Once Welles called Cosby, she claimed he said she drank Champagne and he took her to the apartment to sleep it off.

“He was a star. He was Bill Cosby and I buried it in my memory until all of these brave women began to come forward,” said Welles, who sobbed during her statement.

Pennsylvania’s highest court threw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction and released him from prison back in June in a stunning reversal of fortune for the comedian once known as “America’s Dad,” ruling that the prosecutor who brought the case was bound by his predecessor’s agreement not to charge Cosby.

Cosby, 83, flashed the V-for-victory sign to a helicopter overhead as he trudged into his suburban Philadelphia home after serving nearly three years of a 3- to 10-year sentence for drugging and violating Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.

The former “Cosby Show” star — the first celebrity tried and convicted in the #MeToo era — had no comment as he arrived and just smiled and nodded later at a news conference outside, where his lawyer Jennifer Bonjean said: “We are thrilled to have Mr. Cosby home.”

“He served three years of an unjust sentence and he did it with dignity and principle,” she added.

In a statement, Constand and her lawyers called the ruling disappointing, and they, like many other advocates, expressed fear that it could discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward. “We urge all victims to have their voices heard,” they added.

Cosby was arrested in 2015 when a district attorney armed with newly unsealed evidence — the comic’s damaging deposition in a lawsuit brought by Constand — filed charges against him just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was about to run out.

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday that District Attorney Kevin Steele, who made the decision to arrest Cosby, was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge Cosby, though there was no evidence that agreement was ever put in writing.

In a March 2015 photo, attorney Gloria Allred holds a matchbook that was saved by Margie Shapiro from a night she says she was assaulted by comedian Bill Cosby.
In a March 2015 photo, attorney Gloria Allred holds a matchbook that was saved by Margie Shapiro from a night she says she was assaulted by comedian Bill Cosby.
REUTERS

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