Norristown:- A US judge paved the way Wednesday for disgraced TV legend Bill Cosby to stand trial for the first time on a criminal sexual assault charge, throwing out an attempt by his lawyers to dismiss the case.
Dozens of women have come forward to accuse the 78-year-old Cosby of abuse in allegations spanning four decades, but the vast majority have expired under statues of limitations.
The megastar turned pariah spent two days in court in Norristown, just outside Philadelphia, as his lawyers disputed the legality of the case, which dates back to 2004 and was settled in 2006 by a civil suit.
In a deposition Cosby gave as part of the civil suit, he admitted giving the woman, Andrea Constand, a pill but said all relations with her were consensual and accused her of lying about the assault.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County reopened the case last year, claiming that new evidence came to light in July. Cosby posted bail of $1 million on December 30.
Cosby’s legal team argued that violated a 2005 agreement that he would never be prosecuted over the allegation of assault made by Constand, a former employee of Temple University in Philadelphia.
Constand says Cosby forced himself on her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Prosecutors say he urged her to take pills and drink wine, leaving her unable to resist as he made his move on her.
If found guilty, Cosby — who has surrendered his passport to the court but has yet to enter a plea to the criminal charge — could face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
More than 50 women have publicly alleged sexual abuse by the pioneering black comedian, who attained his greatest fame for his role as a lovable obstetrician and family man in the hit 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.”
But his attorneys repeatedly deny any wrongdoing by the veteran TV actor and say he has since lost his sight.
Statutes of limitations prevent most of the women who have accused the comedian of sexual assault from taking legal action.
– New evidence –
In the Pennsylvania case, the statute of limitations is set to expire early next year.
Cosby’s team called as a witness Bruce Castor, the former district attorney who reached the agreement that the actor would not be prosecuted over the alleged assault if he testified in the civil suit.
Castor told the court on Tuesday that Constand’s credibility had been in question and her account inconsistent, arguing that the civil agreement offered the best possible justice.
“The matter was resolved and I am hopeful that I had made Ms Constand a millionaire,” the former prosecutor added.
Cosby’s lawyers also argued that the 10-year delay since the alleged incident had also “greatly prejudiced” their client.
But Judge Steven O’Neill rejected the defense’s arguments.
Prosecutors said the release of court documents in July and the subsequent release of the deposition had in part led to the reopening of the case.
“I think Andrea is a liar and I know she’s a liar because I was there,” Cosby said in the deposition, cited by The New York Times.
Constand has said she was willing to cooperate with prosecutors, according to prosecutor Kevin Steele.
The avalanche of accusations against Cosby have led television networks to back away from projects connected to him, and several universities have stripped him of honorary degrees.
In December, he filed a defamation suit against seven of his accusers.