Actor Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault

 Comedian Bill Cosby
Comedian Bill Cosby

PHILADELPHIA • Comedian Bill Cosby has been charged with sexual assault in connection with an incident at his Philadelphia-area mansion in 2004 - the first criminal charges filed against the actor after dozens of women claimed abuse.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the 78-year-old for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in January 2004, Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said at a news conference yesterday. "Today, after examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim," he said.

The charge against Cosby is aggravated indecent assault, which is a felony in the first degree.

Mr Steele said new information came to light this year in the case. He said the probe that led to the charge involved a "relationship" with the victim that stemmed from her work with the Temple University basketball team.

She went to Cosby's home, and he made two sexual advances that were rejected, Mr Steele said. According to the accusations, Cosby then urged her to take pills and drink wine until she was unable to move.

"The evidence is strong and sufficient to proceed," Mr Steele said, adding that "a person in that state cannot give consent".

Cosby was also expected to be arraigned yesterday. Mr Steele said his office was examining evidence related to other alleged victims, but the charges announced related to just one victim.

The statute of limitations in the case runs out next month.

So far, more than 50 women have come forward with claims that Cosby had drugged and, in numerous cases, sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back decades.

The charges have shocked Cosby's fans and crushed his reputation as an entertainer and wholesome father figure, but Cosby has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Many of these women found that it was too late to sue him on grounds directly related to the accusations, because of the statute of limitations. In what many viewed as a last bid for justice, 10 women sued Cosby for defamation earlier this month. Cosby struck back at them by countersuing them for defamation.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Actor Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault'. Print Edition | Subscribe