judge declines to dismiss Cosby sex assault case
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[February 04, 2016] By
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) -
A Pennsylvania judge refused to dismiss a sexual assault
case against Bill Cosby on Wednesday, setting the stage
for the first criminal prosecution of the
once-celebrated comedian, who has for years denied
allegations of assault by dozens of women.
The decision was a loss for the 78-year-old entertainer, who
for decades was beloved by U.S. television audiences for his
family-friendly brand of humor.
Cosby's attorneys had tried to convince Pennsylvania Common
Pleas Court Judge Steven O'Neill that their client could not be
prosecuted due to an agreement reached with a former Montgomery
Country district attorney more than a decade ago. They never
produced a written agreement to that effect.
"I hereby find no basis to grant the relief requested" by
Cosby's lawyers, O'Neill said at the end of a two-day hearing in
A Cosby spokesman said the decision would be appealed.
More than 50 women have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting
them in attacks dating back to the 1960s, and several civil
lawsuits have been filed against him though many of the
incidents are too old to prosecute.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles County last month decided not to
charge Cosby over two alleged cases of sexual assault dating to
1965 and 2008.
Cosby, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, sat still and
silent through Wednesday's court hearing and offered no visible
reaction to O'Neill's early evening decision. He could be
sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers left court without speaking to
PROSECUTOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY AS WITNESSES
Cosby's attorneys had called former Montgomery County District
Attorney Bruce Castor as their primary witness. Castor testified
that he had agreed not to prosecute Cosby in 2005 to clear the
way for him to testify in a civil suit brought by alleged victim
Andrea Constand, now 44, who has said Cosby plied her with
alcohol and drugs before raping her.
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"I was hopeful that I had made Ms. Constand a millionaire." Castor
testified on Tuesday. Cosby's top lawyer, John Schmitt, testified on
Wednesday that he would not have allowed Cosby to give the
deposition if he had believed prosecution was possible.
Cosby told the court at the time that he gave Constand what he
described as an anti-allergy pill before a sexual encounter he
maintained was consensual.
Defense attorneys on Tuesday presented a 2005 press release from
Castor's office that they said amounted to an agreement not to
But current Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele
attacked the idea that Cosby's lawyers would allow a deal that was
never spelled out in a formal non-prosecution agreement and
contended such a deal would not have legal force.
"A secret agreement that permits a wealthy defendant to buy his way
out of a criminal case isnít right," he said.
The judge set a March 8 preliminary hearing for prosecutors to begin
to discuss their evidence against Cosby.
Karen Polesir, a leader of the Philadelphia arm of Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, a group that advocates for victims of
sexual abuse, praised the judge's decision.
"This is a significant step forward for victims of sexual violence,"
she said. "We hope this victory will encourage other prosecutors and
police to pursue older rape cases."
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)
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