NORRISTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA • Prosecutors on Tuesday crossed their final hurdle to bring Bill Cosby to trial on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman he once mentored, with a judge ruling that enough evidence existed for the case to move forward.
While Cosby is fighting numerous civil cases involving similar accusations, the ruling means the oncepopular comic must face at least one of his accusers in a criminal proceeding, likely to take place here this year.
"This case will move forward," judge Elizabeth McHugh said in Montgomery County Courthouse. The day came more than 11 years after Ms Andrea Constand, a former Temple University staff member, told the police about what she said was a drugging and sexual assault at Cosby's home near Norristown in 2004.
Although a former district attorney in Montgomery County chose not to pursue charges in 2005, prosecutors re-opened the investigation last year after many other women came forward with similar accusations against Cosby.
The move also followed the publication last year of parts of a deposition that Cosby gave in a 2005 civil suit brought by Ms Constand, now 43, in which he admitted obtaining the sedative quaaludes as part of his efforts to have sex with other women.
Cosby, 78, stood at the end and said, "Thank you". The judge wished him luck. He later waived a formal arraignment, which means he automatically enters a plea of not guilty.
The case now moves back up to the state's trial court level where a judge will set a trial date. Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him, aggravated indecent assault.
At the hearing, Mr Brian McMonagle, Cosby's lawyer who led the cross-examination, attacked the prosecution for relying on a statement Ms Constand gave to the police in 2005 rather than calling her as a witness.
Mr McMonagle said that using the report of a 12-year-old event that Ms Constand did not tell the police about until a year later was denying Cosby the right to confront his accuser. "This citizen deserves more," he said.
The defence team noted that Ms Constand had made revisions to her police statement and cited earlier encounters between her and Cosby, including one when he touched her thigh. Despite this, she still returned to his home, they said.
NEW YORK TIMES