A pretrial hearing on Sept. 6 had unexpected results for legally embattled comedian Bill Cosby, who could face as many as 13 accusers at his impeding trial. The trial was previously thought to be centering around a single alleged victim: former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who claimed that Cosby drugged and assaulted her at his home in 2004. However, prosecutors at the pretrial hearing told Judge Steven T. O'Neill that they intended to call on 13 other accusers to testify in the case. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault, most laying out a similar sequence of events.
Constand was one of the first victims to come forward against Cosby; he allegedly used their mentoring relationship to drug and assault her. At the time of the assault, Constand worked as the director of operations for the women's basketball program at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater for which he served on the board of trustees. In 2005, Constand attempted to bring criminal charges against Cosby, but the district attorney in the case declined to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence. Constand then brought a civil suit against Cosby for damages, which was settled out of court in 2006.
It is that criminal case, which was dismissed over 10 years ago, that is now being resurrected for prosecution. Cosby faces three second-degree felony charges of aggravated indecent assault, which each carry 10-year maximum sentences. If convicted on all three counts, the judge has the option to have the terms be served concurrently, meaning Cosby would only face up to 10 years total, even if found guilty on all three counts.
The pretrial hearing was also attempting to solve other matters still pending in the case before it proceeds to trial, including key evidence from a deposition that Cosby gave in the 2005 civil suit with Constand, and the matter of a trial date. In the deposition, which his lawyers are trying to exclude from the trial, Cosby described the sexual encounter between Constand and himself. “I got her skin and … it’s just above where you can go under the pants,” Cosby said. “I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue, and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.”
The hearing also determined a tentative start date for the trial: June 5, 2017. Judge O'Neill said at the hearing that he is committed to resolving the case soon, according to BuzzFeed: "This court will endeavor to give this defendant his right to a speedy trial, no matter how large the scope and no matter how much underlying procedural matters have to be undertaken."
Cosby's alleged victims will finally have their day in court, and should promote awareness of the elusive nature of sexual assault convictions. Although Cosby won't face charges over all 13 alleged victims, their undoubtedly powerful testimony will likely have a lasting impact on the trial and Cosby's legacy.