The Cosby Trial Comes After A Civil Settlement

More than a decade after he was first accused of sexual assault — one of many claims, all of which he denies to this day — Bill Cosby will stand trial this year. Last week, a Pennsylvania judge decided there is sufficient evidence in Andrea Constand's case. More than 50 women have come forward in the last few years to allege similar stories about the comedian and actor, but this is the first criminal trial to come out of the revelations. Cosby denies all the allegations, describing them as defamatory. The trial date has yet to be set, making it too early to guess whether or not Bill Cosby is to be convicted.

Cosby will be tried for the assault of Andrea Constand, the first woman to publicly accuse him of sexual assault. She is a former basketball player who in 2014 was working at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater. She did not appear in court last Tuesday, but part of the statement she gave to police in 2005 was read at the preliminary hearing, detailing the alleged assault. She said Cosby allegedly invited her to his house and gave her pills that, she said, made her nauseous and dizzy-eyed; he allegedly groped her before she fell unconscious. She claimed that she awoke with her clothes all over the floor.

Parts of the statement were devastating:

I told him, "I can't even talk, Mr. Cosby." I started to panic.
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That testimony, along with other evidence, led the judge to decide that the trial could proceed. Cosby is expected to plead innocent. Much of the entertainer's defense at Tuesday's hearing centered around hearsay and whether the evidence was admissible and credible — something that could be a deciding factor in any possible conviction.

Cosby's lawyer Brian McMonagle repeatedly attacked Constand's absence and the prosecution's use of her 2005 statement as evidence. The Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said for the preliminary hearing that's all that was needed. When the case goes to trial, however, it will need to be backed up.

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Initially, back in 2005, prosecutors decided not to press charges. Bruce Castor, then the Montgomery County district attorney, cited "insufficient credible and admissible evidence." At the time, Cosby admitted to having sexual contact with Constand, but not intercourse — "never asleep or awake." He claimed the encounter was consensual, telling police that she never said "no" when he put his hands down her pants.

When police declined to press charges, Constand sued in civil court. She and Cosby eventually settled in 2006. This February he sued her for breaching that settlement by cooperating with the criminal investigation, something his suit claims was prohibited by the confidentiality clause of the 2006 deal.

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The case was reopened after new evidence came to light — largely that other women had accused Cosby of the same conduct, which he denied. Steele, who is newly elected, had also made the Cosby case an election issue. He charged Cosby with three felonies in December.

Cosby was arraigned and released on a $1 million bond.