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Bill Cosby Charged With 2004 Drugging, Sexual Assault of Woman

78-year-old comedian Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault.

Updated
Entertainment
3 min read
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby is helped as he arrives for a court appearance, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Elkins Park, Pa. (Photo: David Swanson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) 

Bill Cosby was arrested in the twilight of his life and career on Wednesday and charged with a decade-old sex crime after a barrage of accusations from dozens of women made a mockery of his image as TV’s wise and understanding Dr Cliff Huxtable.

Holding a cane, the 78-year-old comedian walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers to answer charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman less than half his age at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He had no comment as he was released on $1-million bail.

The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with sexual misconduct despite years of lurid allegations and sets the stage for perhaps the biggest Hollywood celebrity trial of the mobile-news era.

Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law.

Monique Pressley, Cosbey’s Attorney

The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out. It represents an about-face by the district attorney’s office, which under a previous DA declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when the woman first told police that the comic put his hands down her pants.

The former Cosby Show star and breaker of racial barriers was charged with aggravated indecent assault, punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. He did not have to enter a plea.

Prosecutors accused Cosby of plying former Temple University employee Andrea Constand with pills and wine, then penetrating her with his fingers without her consent while she was drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to resist or cry out.

She was “frozen, paralysed, unable to move,” Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele said. In court papers, prosecutors said the drugs were the cold medicine Benadryl or some other, unidentified substance. Steele noted that Cosby has admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.

Cosby acknowledged under oath a decade ago that he had sexual contact with Constand but said it was consensual.

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Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 29 alleged victims of actor Bill Cosby, holds a court document as she speaks about Cosby’s arrest in Pennsylvania, at a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Photo: AP)
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 29 alleged victims of actor Bill Cosby, holds a court document as she speaks about Cosby’s arrest in Pennsylvania, at a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Photo: AP)

Wearing a black-and-white hooded sweater, Cosby tripped on a curb as he made his way into court. Inside, he seemed to have trouble seeing the paperwork and finding the place to sign, and his lawyers helped him hold the pen. But he seemed at ease, laughing and chatting with his attorneys.

When the judge said, “Good luck to you, sir,” he shouted: “Thank you!”

Prosecutors reopened the case over the summer as damaging testimony was unsealed in Constand’s related civil lawsuit against Cosby and as dozens of other women came forward with similar accusations that destroyed his good-guy image as America’s Dad.

“Reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers,” said Steele, who is the top deputy in the DA’s office and will take over next week.

In court papers, prosecutors said there are probably other women who were similarly drugged and violated by Cosby. Steele urged them to come forward.

Constand, now 42, lives in Toronto and works as a massage therapist. Her attorney, Dolores Troiani, welcomed the charges.

Cosby also faces a raft of defamation and sexual-abuse lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania. But in nearly every case, it is too late to file criminal charges. One exception: a 2008 case involving a model at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. It is still under investigation by police.

Cosby in 1965 became the first black actor to land a leading role in a network drama, “I Spy,” and he went on to earn three straight Emmys. Over the next three decades, the Philadelphia-born comic created TV’s animated “Fat Albert” and the top-rated “Cosby Show,” the 1980s sitcom celebrated as groundbreaking television for its depiction of a warm and loving black family headed by two professionals, one a lawyer, the other a doctor.

(The AP story has been edited for length)

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