Bill Cosby charged: bail set at $1m during court appearance

Actor to pay 10% of bail after being charged with alleged assault of Andrea Constand

 US comedian Bill Cosby arrives on Wednesday at the Court House in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania to face charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby was arraigned over an incident that took place in 2004 - the first criminal charge filed against the actor after dozens of women alleged abuse. Photograph: AFP

US comedian Bill Cosby arrives on Wednesday at the Court House in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania to face charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby was arraigned over an incident that took place in 2004 - the first criminal charge filed against the actor after dozens of women alleged abuse. Photograph: AFP

 

Bill Cosby was charged late on Wednesday with sexually assaulting a woman after plying her with drugs and alcohol in 2004, the only criminal case against a once-beloved entertainer whose father-figure persona has been marred by dozens of similar misconduct accusations.

A frail-looking Cosby (78) walking with a cane and accompanied by two lawyers, appeared for his arraignment hours later at a courthouse just outside Philadelphia, where he posted a $1 million bond, turned over his passport and was ordered to avoid any contact with his accuser.

Smiling and politely thanking District Court Judge Elizabeth McHugh at the end of the brief proceeding, Cosby left the Elkins Park courthouse and was driven to a nearby police precinct to be finger-printed and booked.

He emerged from the police station 10 minutes later and was whisked away in the same black sport utility vehicle that had delivered him to the courthouse.

He made no statements as a throng of reporters shouted questions at him.

He is due to return to court on January 14th for a preliminary hearing.

The case against Cosby was filed just before the statute of limitations deadline for criminal prosecution was due to lapse in January.

The charge stems from allegations leveled by Andrea Constand (44) who settled a civil case against Cosby for an undisclosed sum in 2006.

“Today, after examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim,” Kevin Steele, the newly elected district attorney for Montgomery County, told an earlier news conference.

Mr Steele made a campaign issue of his intent to prosecute Cosby.

Ms Constand, a former basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby’s alma mater, is one of more than 50 women who have publicly accused the star of sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back decades.

Cosby did not enter a plea in Wednesday’s case.

But he and his lawyers, while acknowledging marital infidelity on his part, have consistently denied any allegations of sexual misconduct.

His legal team issued a statement late on Wednesday calling the sexual assault charge “unjustified,” suggesting it was politically motivated and declaring Cosby “will be exonerated by a court of law.”

The prosecution came as no surprise, his attorneys said, given that it followed a “hotly contested” election for district attorney in which “this case was made the focal point.”

Cosby, who personified the model American family man in his long-running hit television show, was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

According to an affidavit accompanying the charge, the victim was a guest at Cosby’s home in Cheltenham near Philadelphia one evening in January 2004, when he gave her wine and urged her to take three blue pills, prosecutors said in a statement.

“Shortly thereafter, the victim became incapacitated, and Cosby led her to a couch and sexually assaulted her.

“The victim did not consent to any of these acts and reported that she was unable to move or speak and felt ‘frozen’ and ‘paralyzed,’” prosecutors said.

When questioned by police as to whether he had sex with Ms Constand, Cosby, according to the charging documents, answered, “never asleep or awake.” The statement appeared to be at odds with Cosby’s sworn deposition in the civil case that they had consensual sexual contact.

Mr Steele said the case was brought after new information came to light this year, adding that the victim was willing to co-operate.

The mounting accusations have shocked Cosby’s fans and crushed his wholesome, family-man image as various television projects and live shows were canceled during the past year. He also stepped down from the board of trustees at Temple, and there were calls to revoke his Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The actor is best known for playing Dr Cliff Huxtable, the family patriarch in the TV sitcom The Cosby Show one of the country’s highest-rated television shows in the 1980s.