Bill Cosby Charged With Sexual Assault In Pennsylvania

After nearly two years of decades old stories leaking out, entertainment legend Bill Cosby has been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2005.

Bill Cosby

After roughly two years during which allegations of sexual abuse and rape have largely destroyed a public reputation that it took decades to build, actor and comedian Bill Cosby has been charged with sexual assault in a Philadelphia suburb in a cases that promises to become a high-profile story in the coming year:

The authorities in Pennsylvania announced criminal charges on Wednesday against the entertainer Bill Cosby stemming from a woman’s accusation that he drugged and sexually abused her at his home in a suburb north of Philadelphia, in 2004.

Kevin Steele, Montgomery County’s district attorney-elect, said that Mr. Cosby faces a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault. He said the investigation involved a “relationship” between Mr. Cosby and the victim, Andrea Constand, that came about from her work with the basketball team at Temple University, Mr. Cosby’s alma mater.

Mr. Cosby became a “mentor” and “friend” to Ms. Constand, Mr. Steele said, and at one point she went to his home in Cheltenham Township. According to the accusations, Mr. Cosby urged her to take pills and drink wine until she was unable to move, after which he committed the assault.

“The evidence is strong and sufficient to proceed,” Mr. Steele said. He added: “A person in that state cannot give consent.”

Mr. Cosby’s lawyer, Monique Pressley, had no immediate comment but said a statement would be coming later Wednesday.

Ms. Constand’s lawyer, Dolores M. Troiani, expressed “appreciation” to law enforcement in a statement on Wednesday, praising them for “the consideration and courtesy they have shown Andrea during this difficult time.”

Mr. Cosby is expected to be arraigned on Wednesday.

Mr. Steele said his office was examining evidence related to other alleged victims, but the charges related to just one. Dozens of women have come forward in recent years to accuse Mr. Cosby of sexual misconduct and assault. He has denied the allegations and this month opened a lawsuit against seven of the women, accusing them of defamation.

In 2005 and 2006, Mr. Cosby talked about his relationship with Ms. Constand in a deposition for a lawsuit she filed against him. During four days of questioning, Mr. Cosby presented himself as an unapologetic playboy but not a sexual predator. He said he immediately felt romantic interest in Ms. Constand after meeting in the early 2000s and described a patient courtship.

He considered himself a mentor, offering advice and professional contacts, he said. Soon after they met, he invited Ms. Constand to his home, offering an intimate dinner with Cognac, dimmed lights and a fire, he said.

He did not try to kiss her that night, he said, because he did not sense that she wanted him to. But he said they had a “sexual moment” at their next dinner. Their association continued for years but ended, Mr. Cosby said, when he gave her one and a half pills of Benadryl at his home to relieve stress, and they kissed and had sexual contact.

Ms. Constand described a much different scenario to investigators.

She said she had no interest in a romantic relationship with Mr. Cosby. “She never thought he would hit on her, especially since Cosby is much older than her father,” the criminal complaint said.

During one visit to his home, after she had a couple glasses of wine, he “out of the blue” unbuttoned her pants and started touching her, she told investigators. She leaned forward to stop him, he went into the kitchen and she left 10 minutes later without discussing what had happened, according to the complaint.

She continued to trust Mr. Cosby, however, and she attended social and professional events with him. On Jan. 15, 2004, the night Ms. Constand said she was drugged, she told him she felt “drained” and “emotionally occupied,” according to the complaint. He urged her to take the pills, telling her they would “make you feel good” and “take the edge off,” she told investigators.

Ms. Troiani, Ms. Constand’s lawyer, said she believed the drug was much more powerful than Benadryl.

About 20 to 30 minutes later, Ms. Constand told investigators, she lost strength in her legs, describing them as feeling “like jelly.” She said she had blurred vision, difficulty speaking, nausea and dizziness.

She woke up at 4 a.m. with her sweater bunched up and her bra undone, she said.

Ms. Constand later moved home to Canada. In his deposition, Mr. Cosby described speaking on the phone to her mother, who was distraught over her daughter’s accusations. Mr. Cosby wanted Ms. Constand to tell her mother that the encounter was consensual, he said.

“Tell your mother about the orgasm. Tell your mother how we talked,” he said he recalled thinking.

Worried that they might try to embarrass him, he offered to help pay for Ms. Constand’s education, he said.

This case was apparently initially investigated a decade ago by the prosecutor who was in office at the time and he found that there was insufficient evidence to justify bringing charges. However, the prosecutor who now runs the office says that the investigation was reopened in July after deposition testimony was released in which, as noted in the article, Cosby admits to sexual conduct with the woman and appears to corroborate at least part of the claims that she is making in her complaint. Additionally, unlike most of the other charges that have come out against Cosby over the past two years or so, this charge relates to an incident that occurred only ten years ago and that the statute of limitations for the specific charge brought against Cosby is twelve years, so this is really the first time that a charge has been made against him that could possibly result in criminal charges. Other charges, most of which resulted from events as far back as the 1960s, have seen their their statutes of limitation for criminal and civil claims pass a long, long time ago.. For that reason alone, this charge is obviously far more serious than the public embarrassment and the loss of various positions and honors that he has seen happen to him since these raft of charges started coming forward nearly two years ago. If convicted of this charge, in fact, Cosby could face 10-25 years in state prison, although it is obviously far too early to be talking about whether that is a reasonable possibility for a man who was, until very recently, one of the most admired men in America.

While Cosby is obviously innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s worth noting that the nature of the charges that are set forth in this case share many similarities with others than have been made against Cosby since this story first broke. It is alleged that he plied this young woman with alcohol and some unidentified drugs, at which point she was rendered helpless, barely if at all conscious, and then sexually assaulted. As many other women have claimed in public statements and depositions, Cosby then threatened the woman with repercussions if she came forward and accused him of wrongdoing while at the same time promising to provide her with money and other resources if she remained quiet. The pattern is so identical in some cases, in fact, that it seems likely that the prosecutors in Pennsylvania will try to call some or all of the more than thirty women to testify in this trial in this case for the purpose of establishing a “pattern” on Cosby’s part. Whether that actually happens is a complicated legal matter that will have to be dealt with before trial, though, due to the fact that the presentation of evidence regarding charges that have nothing to do with the case before the court have the potential to prejudice a jury against a Defendant for reasons that have nothing to do with the charges against them. This is especially true in the case of charges from decades ago where memories may have faded and there is no physical evidence. Nonetheless, if Cosby’s attorneys make attacking the accuser’s credibility a central part of their defense then the prosecutor will likely argue that they have opened the door to at least some limited testimony about his past pattern and practices involving other women in the past. Admitting even a part of that testimony could prove to be quite damaging to Cosby and, at the very least, will do further damage to what was once a stellar reputation.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Entertainment, Law and the Courts, Popular Culture,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    You know….you’ve got that much money, that much celebrity, why do this crap?
    Like Charlue Sheen said; I’m not paying for sex, I’m paying them to go away.
    Apparently Crosby isn’t as smart as he would have us think.

  2. PJ says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Like Charlue Sheen said; I’m not paying for sex, I’m paying them to go away.

    Considering the recent news, Sheen should have paid them to stay away.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Cosby can afford an awful lot of lawyer. I hope they have something more solid than he said, she said backed up only by another she said, another she said, another she said, and yet another she said.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    This will be a tough case for the prosecutors but even if he gets off the once popular performer will be remembered for this.

  5. bill says:

    @Ron Beasley: true, just the act of a woman going to a mans home is usually enough for a jury to let it slide.

  6. walt moffett says:

    Good to see this matter finally come before the court instead of the tabloid/gossip/advocacy press. While his reputation is gone, be good to have some actual facts and sworn testimony. Plus, may even see a change in how rape cases are handled

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:You forget, this isn’t

    another she said, another she said, another she said, and yet another she said.

    it’s a “she said, HE SAID THE SAME, another she said, another she said, and yet another she said.” Cosby corroborated a significant amount of what she swore to in her original complaint. The only real difference is he says it was consensual.

    Hey Bill, if it was consensual, why’d you need the drugs????

  8. James Joyner says:

    I’m surprised the statute of limitations hasn’t passed on this. Eleven-plus years is an awful long time for memories to fade and the existence of so many other accusations will wrongly color a jury as to whether Cosby committed this particular crime.

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Eleven-plus years is an awful long time for memories to fade

    Ask any woman who’s been raped if eleven years is long enough for her to forget every single detail of what happened.

  10. J-Dub says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Apparently Crosby isn’t as smart as he would have us think.

    Because it’s not the sex he’s after, it’s perpetrating violence against women that he gets off on.

  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Joyner:

    The SoL in Pennsylvania for sexual assault is 12 years, or for underage victims, until the victim turns 50. It looks like the Prosecutor was aware that he needed to fish or cut bait.

  12. MBunge says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Hey Bill, if it was consensual, why’d you need the drugs????

    The practice of trading drugs for sex has been around since we’ve had drugs and sex and is both legally and ethically distinct from drugging a woman so you can rape her.

    Of course, it seems quite believable that a man who admits to one would cross the line and do the other and quite unbelievable that so many women would all be lying about the same thing.

    Mike

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    and the existence of so many other accusations will wrongly color a jury as to whether Cosby committed this particular crime.

    What? The existence of so many other accusations will WRONGLY color a jury as to whether or not Cosby committed this crime? Don’t you mean more accurately color it? It indicates a pattern of repeated criminal behavior.

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Eleven-plus years is an awful long time for memories to fade

    James, assume you’d been raped in 2004. Do you think your memory of that would have faded by now?

  15. KM says:

    @James Joyner:
    Perhaps you didn’t mean to sound so carelessly cruel but that takes some ice in your veins to wonder why eleven years is an “awful long time”. It’s true memories may fade but honestly memories are the least reliable evidence anyways (see lineups and memory studies across the last century) The facts and evidence never will. Add in a culture that doesn’t take rape seriously and all it does is encourage perpetrators to silence their victims, discourage getting legal help for fear of disbelief/shaming and then keep tight till the deadline passes. Imagine -eleven years of living with a horrid crime that you know they will get away with because the system is skewed in their favor.

    I’ve never like the concept of statues of limitations. We are essentially saying as a society “if you can hide your malfeasance successfully for X years, you’re golden!” It also inevitably puts a value amount on the type of crime – murder has no statue because we hold it as one of the highest evils while bodily violations get little more then a decade to resolve? Why do we give clever criminals a free pass if they can just keep a lid on things for a while?

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Also I saw a news story that he successfully campaigned against the incumbent prosecutor partly on promising to prosecute Cosby.

    In this case political pressure on a prosecutor is pushing for something I like. With Tamir Rice it pushed something I think is evil. In A Different Democracy our Dr. Taylor et al point out, IIRC, that judges are elected only in the U. S. and a few positions in Ecuador. The rest of the world apparently recognizes electing judges as a bad idea. I wonder if anyone else in the world is dumb enough to elect prosecutors?

  17. CSK says:

    If it’s of any help, statutes of limitations exist to protect defendants. The first argument made in favor of them is that the plaintiff (the state, the commonwealth) should pursue charges with due diligence; the second is that the defendant may no longer be in possession of exculpatory evidence. The third argument is that dragging cases out constitutes a greater punishment than may be warranted, though I don’t really buy that.

    The whole concept goes back to ancient Greece. Demosthenes argues for a statute of limitations (except on murder) because it discourages professional accusers.

    I agree that it’s unpleasant to see people skate after committing serious crimes.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: It also corresponds with the idea of laches, which basically boils down to “stop twiddling your fingers and make up your mind.”

    The place laches doesn’t show up enough IMHO is in trademark infringements…..

  19. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yes: Long-neglected rights cease to be rights.

  20. André Kenji De Sousa says:

    Cosby used to be a world class celebrity. That’s small when compared to “so many accusations”.

  21. bill says:

    20 comments in and no “race card” yet?

  22. John H says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Rafer – your assumption that the significance of an incident makes it more likely to be recalled correctly is wrong. It’s one of the most common of memory myths. We edit every memory that we store and continue editing them every time we re-visit them. Highly charged incidents and more personal incidents are the most likely to be incorrectly recalled. Add (allegedly) drugs to the mix and the chance that any memories of the victim are accurate is greatly reduced. This has nothing to do with my thoughts on Cosby’s culpability, and I’m not commenting on your opinion of it, but this does make any attempt to use old memories to form a judgement a bit fraught. This is unlikely to be settled on matters of fact. This whole matter should have been taken care of earlier and with greater attention to the complaints. Let’s hope we’re getting better at that.

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    As I’ve heard it, they slid in just a few days before expiration. This makes me wonder if they’re charging in order to stop the clock, or if their case is truly ready for prime time.

  24. John D'Geek says:

    @HarvardLaw92: As gVOR08 said, the case is politically motivated.

    In fact, that’s the number one defense that Cosby has — the previous prosecutor has already stated that the case cannot be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The only reason the new prosecutor even did this was to get elected.

    To the lawyers: imagine what you could do in this case. Surely the analysis of why the case could not be proven is admissible.

    A number of issues in this case can go all the way to the Supreme Court, including how the deposition was unsealed in the first place (strictly politics; there’s a reason these things are supposed to stay sealed).

    Shorter version: there will be neither satisfaction nor justice in this case, regardless of how/if the jury votes.

  25. Tony W says:

    Somebody wants to be this generation’s Marcia Clark….

  26. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Maybe both. They can stop the clock and prepare a case, to whatever extent they can. And you know the defense is going to ask for continuances.

    There’s real time, and then there’s legal time, which appears to be measured in geological eras.

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tony W: Well, there IS the “no such thing as bad publicity” issue to consider.

  28. Stephen Bloom says:

    I wonder when Mr. Clinton will be charged?

  29. JohnMcC says:

    @Stephen Bloom: Yeah! Impeach the sumbich! Oh wait….,.

  30. Guarneri says:

    @John H:

    Further, recollection of traumatic events, such as rape, are well documented, as you say, to be altered, to and including being “forgotten,” (buried) factually incorrect, denied, or rationalized as a psychological coping tool.

    Your conclusion and hope are spot on.

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @bill: I guess Jenos’ mom is using the computer.

  32. JKB says:

    This case may have some interesting and clearly very extending issues. Example, the deposition from 2005 that helped bring this charge forward was only unsealed recently. The judge in the case, did not base his decision for reduced privacy on Cosby’s professional public figure, but rather on the fact that he chose to enter the public forum to state his opinion on the family and other issues. With Cosby’s money, that could have to weather a First Amendment challenge, which would take years to wind its way to resolution.

    It will also be fun watching each news report on the case bring up Slick Willie’s long history of unindicted sexual assaults.

  33. Mike says:

    Going to be a very difficult case to prosecute, then again, if PA has a rule of evidence like FRE 413 then this is pretty damning for Cosby – I am sure that this issue will be the key to conviction or exoneration. If other women’s testimony is allowed in under 413, it will be a media circus – dozens of women brought in to testify “he did this to me.”

    The DA is going to have to overcome the hurdle of why hasn’t this been charged 10 years ago.

    Even if he corroborates most of the woman’s story, all that matters in these date-rape type cases is 1) did he drug her or 2) was it consensual. I don’t know if he admitted to drugging her – if he did then consent seems out the window. If he did not admit to drugging her, then the prosecution has to prove he did thus making it a non-consensual act. It isn’t uncommon to have the defendant and complaining witness to both say the exact same thing until the issue of consent comes up unless it is a jump out of the bushes type offense.

    will be interesting esp with the unsealing issue

    Probably going to be a long time until the actual trial starts.

  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Mike:

    PA has not adopted a rule equivalent to FRE 413. More troublesome for the state in this instance is that PA has also not adopted FRE 412. PA’s comparable rule 412 allows for evidence of the alleged victim’s sexual conduct with the defendant to be introduced in cases where the consent of the alleged victim is at issue post an in camera determination. In other words, she’ll be fair game for attack. PA courts also tend to frown on admissibility of prior bad acts.

    This goes to the heart of Cosby’s characterization of the events and to what will almost certainly be his defense strategy – consensual use of drugs and consensual sexual intercourse. It’s going to be extremely difficult for the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either factor wasn’t consensual, and Cosby’s lawyers will use her sexual conduct (imagine her having to describe every lurid detail of every lurid episode on the stand) to shred her credibility. Note that his lead attorney in this matter appears to be female, so no joy there for the alleged victim from a sympathy standpoint.

    I don’t think that the 6th Amendment avenues go anywhere meaningful, but his attorneys will certainly broach the argument regardless.

  35. Mike says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thank you for the info about PA’s lack of 412 / 413. With this being the case, I give the prosecutor no chance of getting a conviction – assuming this goes to trial which I tend to doubt it will in the end.

  36. John D'Geek says:

    @Mike: Oh, it will go to trial — but not because the prosecutor is seeking justice. It will go to trial so he can use it as election-fodder next time. So when the inevitable “not guilty” is discharged, he can say he did what he promised and then go on to politic.

    Justice and Mental Health be damned.