His fingerprints were taken and passport turned over. A bulb flashed and in an instant, there was a mugshot. The former TV legend Bill Cosby was processed in Pennsylvania yesterday. He did not enter a plea. Judge Elizabeth McHugh ordered Cosby to avoid contact with the accuser, Andrea Constand, which he didn’t seem to altogether understand at first blush. The star of The Cosby Show has a long legal road ahead of him now that he faces a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault. The 78-year-old is set to appear in court again on Jan. 14.
Cosby arrived yesterday for his arraignment at a district court in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. The authorities there announced criminal charges against Bill Cosby stemming from former Temple University employee Andrea Constand’s accusation that he drugged and sexually abused her at his home in a suburb north of Philadelphia, in 2004. Cosby can no longer fight the allegations behind closed doors.
The former Jell-O spokesperson posted the $1 million bail (putting down 10% as called for under Pennsylvania law) yesterday. It marks the first time criminal charges have been officially brought against Cosby, who has been accused by more than 50 women who say he drugged and/or sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back to the mid-1960s.
Celebrity trials are a national pastime in America, played out on numerous cable news networks and elsewhere. The public will undoubtedly sit back to watch this legal reality show unfold. Get ready for the most watched celebrity trial of 2016. Besides, now legal retribution may soon be a reality.
In the year or so since there’s been a mounting scandal surrounding the once-beloved comedian, throngs of witnesses are itching to testify against Cosby. State attorneys can have these women appear who have accused the Kids Say the Darndest Things host of rape. There is no denying the fact that these women have told remarkably similar stories of rape and assault. Other accusers could testify in this sexual assault case, according to Pennsylvania law.
It is officially go time for at least one victim, who was allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted in 2004 by Cosby. “Reopening this case was our duty,” said Montgomery County District Attorney-Elect Kevin Steele. “The evidence is strong and sufficient enough to proceed with the charges.” If convicted, Cosby could get five to 10 years in prison, and up to a $25,000 fine.
Steele has justified charges against Cosby with new evidence exposed this year in previously sealed depositions from the 2005 civil suit brought by Andrea Constand, who has agreed to cooperate in the criminal prosecution of Bill Cosby. The civil depositions being unsealed in this case back in July were everything to the criminal complaint. Cosby’s own words in depositions are the nail in his legal coffin. He could hang himself with his statements (see below).
The criminal case dates from 2004, and under Pennsylvania law, prosecutors have a 12-year deadline to bring charges in a sexual assault case. The statute of limitations is due to expire based on the allegation at the end of January 2016. The clock was ticking for the DA to file charges.
What is the basis for the charges that came yesterday? Andrea Constand in 2005 said Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her when she visited his home in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia in 2004. But the then-county prosecutor declined to charge the comedian, saying there was not enough evidence by the time Constand went to police.
Constand is no shrinking violet. Prosecutors say Constand had already made it clear to Cosby that she had no interest in a sexual relationship with him and had denied at least two of his sexual advances prior to the alleged assault. She sued Cosby in civil court and that suit was settled a year later. The results were sealed, including a three-day deposition of Cosby. But this year, after dozens of women had come forward accusing Cosby of drugging and raping them in episodes dating back to the mid-1960s, a judge released part of the deposition stemming from the Constand case, and more leaked later.
Steele said that Constand “came to consider Mr. Cosby her mentor and her friend.” Those can be the most vulnerable types of victims, who are taken advantage of by someone they trust and who holds a position of power and distinction. The night Cosby allegedly assaulted Constand, she told police that he called her and said they were going to discuss her future career plans. She arrived at his home and at some point, Cosby said he wanted her to relax and gave her three blue pills, which he told her were “herbal.”
Cosby allegedly urged Constand to take pills and to drink wine, the effects of which left her unable to rebuff his advances, notes the criminal complaint filed Dec. 30 in Pennsylvania. The actor apparently assaulted her while she remained “frozen” and “paralyzed,” specified the criminal complaint.
Cosby is now formally charged with aggravated indecent assault, a first-degree felony. The Philadelphia native said he was attracted to Constand from the first time he saw her (when she was working as Director of Operations for the Temple University women’s basketball team), according to a deposition in Constand’s 2005 civil suit against Cosby.
The decision by Steele’s boss, newly elected District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, reverses a decision by her predecessor who had ruled that there was not enough evidence to warrant an arrest. In 2005, both Cosby and Constand were interviewed by police but the district attorney at the time said their statements amounted to he said/she said and that wasn’t enough to charge him with any crime.
Bill Cosby gets escorted into the District Court in Elkins Park, Penn.
As such, Cosby’s attorneys said the charge against their client is a purely political maneuver. Cosby’s lawyers claim that the charge filed 12 years after the alleged incident comes “on the heels of a hotly contested election for the county’s DA during which this case was made the focal point.”
Bill Cosby’s mugshot in latest arrest
Generally, jurors do not care about potential political motives in charging a defendant. They care about the evidence and what the accuser and the defendant have to say. To that end, jurors typically want to hear from the defendant too in a sexual assault case. Cosby and his counsel will have to decide whether he should testify but I think it is doubtful he would be advised to take the stand. Testifying comes with huge risks for the defendant, including making incriminating statements.
Constand testifying will be a nightmare for Bill Cosby, especially since he admitted during the deposition that he had sex with her and gave her pills. Cosby acknowledged under oath a decade ago that he had sexual contact with Constand but said it was consensual. Yet if he drugged her, she was unable to give consent to the sexual acts, which signals game over for Cosby.
Cosby’s attorneys will have to argue that the lapse of time negatively impacts the reliability of the testimony of the accuser. The challenge for them in arguing same is that jurors will have access to her statements from when she went to authorities and gave testimony under oath, which was close in time to the incident. If Constand is telling the truth on the stand in 2016, those statements will match up with her prior accounts of what happened in 2004.
In multiple depositions, Cosby denied assaulting anyone while at the same time admitting to using his fame, mentorship, and cocktail concoctions to pursue women who rejected his advances. Cosby at various points suggested he was able to read nonverbal indicators of consent and boasted of his own sexual prowess.
Despite her impaired physical and mental condition on the night of the assault, “the victim was aware that Cosby was fondling her breasts, put his hands into her pants and penetrated her vagina with his fingers,” an affidavit says. “Cosby also took the victim’s right hand and placed it onto his erect penis,” according to the criminal complaint.
A woman has to affirmatively consent to sexual contact. If she is unable to say “no,” she cannot consent. The law does not care why the accuser is knocked out, be it wine or Benadryl. If Constand could not answer one way or another, it isn’t consent. If Cosby didn’t know whether she was saying “yes” or “no” to sexual acts, as he said in his deposition, he loses under the law.
Remember, if Cosby is convicted, that will help other alleged victims because the multimillionaire has counter-sued them for monetary damages, claiming defamation. Over the past year, Cosby has made several active attempts to demean and discredit his accusers. For instance, he has mocked his alleged victims onstage.
In the United States there is a presumption of innocence. This is the first criminal action against the 78-year-old regarding serious charges. There isn’t any physical evidence, according to sources close to the case. Will the case stick? Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and let us know how you feel about the criminal case against Bill Cosby.
Bill Cosby’s lawyer, Monique Pressley speaks out after Cosby’s arraignment.
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.