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31 Dec 2015 10:13
Comedian Bill Cosby. (Reuters)
US actor and comedian Bill Cosby was charged on December 30 with sexually assaulting a woman after plying her with
drugs and alcohol in 2004, the only criminal case against a once-beloved
entertainer whose father-figure persona has been marred by dozens of similar
A frail-looking Cosby (78) walking with a cane
and accompanied by two lawyers, appeared for his arraignment hours later at a
courthouse just outside Philadelphia, where he posted a $1 million bond, turned
over his passport and was ordered to avoid any contact with his accuser.
Smiling and politely thanking District Court Judge Elizabeth
McHugh at the end of the brief proceeding, Cosby left
the Elkins Park courthouse and was driven to a nearby police precinct to be
finger-printed and booked.
He emerged from
the police station 10 minutes later and was whisked away in the same black
sport utility vehicle that had delivered him to the courthouse. He made no
statements as a throng of reporters shouted questions at him.
He is due to
return to court on January 14 for a preliminary hearing.
The case against Cosby was
filed just before the statute of limitations deadline for criminal prosecution
was due to lapse in January.
The charge stems from allegations leveled by
Andrea Constand (44) who settled a civil case against Cosby for an
undisclosed sum in 2006.
“Today, after examination of all the evidence, we are able
to seek justice on behalf of the victim,” Kevin Steele, the newly elected
district attorney for Montgomery County, told an earlier news conference.
Steele made a campaign issue of his intent to prosecute Cosby.
Constand, a former basketball team manager at Temple University
in Philadelphia, Cosby’s alma mater, is one of
more than 50 women who have publicly accused the star of sexually assaulting
them in incidents dating back decades.
Cosby did not enter a plea in Wednesday’s
His legal team issued a statement late on Wednesday calling the
sexual assault charge “unjustified,” suggesting it was politically
motivated and declaring Cosby “will
be exonerated by a court of law.”
came as no surprise, his attorneys said, given that it followed a “hotly
contested” election for district attorney in which “this case was
made the focal point.”
Cosby, who personified
the model American family man in his long-running hit television show, was
charged with aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony carrying a
maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison and a $25 000 fine.
Victim did not consent According to an affidavit accompanying the charge, the victim
was a guest at Cosby’s home in Cheltenham near
Philadelphia one evening in January 2004, when he gave her wine and urged her
to take three blue pills, prosecutors said in a statement.
“Shortly thereafter, the victim became incapacitated, and Cosby led her
to a couch. The victim lay down ... and Cosby positioned
himself behind her. Cosby then
fondled the victim’s breasts, put his hands inside her pants, and penetrated
her vagina with his fingers,” prosecutors said.
did not consent to any of these acts and reported that she was unable to move
or speak and felt ‘frozen’ and ‘paralyzed,’” prosecutors said.
When questioned by police as to whether he had sex with
Constand, Cosby, according to the charging
documents, answered, “never asleep or awake.” The statement appeared
to be at odds with Cosby’s sworn deposition in the
civil case that they had consensual sexual contact.
Steele said the
case was brought after new information came to light this year, adding that the
victim was willing to cooperate.
to speak to reporters gathered outside her home in Toronto. Her lawyer, Dolores
Troiani, issued a statement thanking the district attorney’s office, adding,
“In that this matter is now being pursued in the criminal justice system,
we will not comment further.”
“In Pennsylvania, there is now a journey to justice,”
Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has represented 29 of Cosby’s accusers, said at a news
conference in Los Angeles. She said many of her clients, some of whom have
brought civil actions of their own against Cosby, would be willing to
testify against him if the criminal case reaches trial.
is going to be the highest-profile criminal case in this country, at least
involving a celebrity,” she said.
The mounting accusations have shocked Cosby’s fans and crushed his
wholesome, family-man image as various television projects and live shows were
canceled during the past year. He also stepped down from the board of trustees
at Temple, and there were calls to revoke his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Several women who alleged wrongdoing that can no longer be
brought to trial due to statutes of limitation have sued Cosby instead
for defamation, claiming they were smeared by his assertions that their
accusations were fabricated.
One woman, Judy
Huth, has sued on the basis of repressed psychological injuries she claimed to
have suffered from an alleged sexual assault in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion in
Los Angeles when she was 15.
Evasive and conflictingA portion of a sworn deposition by Cosby in 2005-2006 in the civil suit brought by Constand was made public earlier this
year. In it, Cosby acknowledged
under questioning that he had obtained Quaaludes, a sedative that was a popular
recreational drug in the 1970s, intending to give them to young women in order
to have sex with them.
About his encounter with Constand, Cosby said
under oath that it was consensual and that he gave her some Benadryl, an
anti-allergy medication, to relax her.
At one point in his deposition, Cosby said he
recalled thinking, “Tell your mother about the orgasm. Tell your mother
how we talked,” as he worried about what her mother might think.
Prosecutors in court documents cited Cosby’s “evasive and
conflicting identifications of the drug he gave the victim” as a key
factor in their decision to charge him.
Constand, who has sought in court to unseal the record of her
civil case and settlement with Cosby,
said in legal documents filed in July that she is a lesbian, despite his sworn
assertions that their encounter was consensual and that he was adept at picking
up on women’s cues.
“I think that
I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic
sexual things, whatever you want to call them,” he said in the excerpt,
published by The New York Times.
Cosby has stressed through his attorneys
and in court filings that the deposition excerpts contained no testimony that
he engaged in any non-consensual sex or gave Quaaludes to anyone without their
knowledge or consent.
Earlier this month, Cosby sued
seven of his accusers, saying the women who said they were assaulted were lying
and had defamed his “honourable legacy and reputation.”
The actor is best known for playing Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the
family patriarch in the TV sitcom The Cosby Show, one of the country’s highest-rated television shows in the 1980s.
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