Elkins Park - Bill Cosby was arrested in the twilight of his life and career on Wednesday and charged with a decade-old sex crime after a barrage of accusations from dozens of women made a mockery of his image as TV's wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
Holding a cane, the 78-year-old comedian walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers to answer charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman less than half his age at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He had no comment as he was released on $1m bail.
The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with sexual misconduct despite years of lurid allegations and sets the stage for perhaps the biggest Hollywood celebrity trial of the mobile-news era.
"Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law," his attorney Monique Pressley said in a statement.
The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out. It represents an about-face by the district attorney's office, which under a previous DA declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when the woman first told police that the comic put his hands down her pants.
The former Cosby Show star and breaker of racial barriers was charged with aggravated indecent assault, punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a $25 000 fine. He did not have to enter a plea.
Prosecutors accused Cosby of plying former Temple University employee Andrea Constand with pills and wine, then penetrating her with his fingers without her consent while she was drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to resist or cry out.
She was "frozen, paralyzed, unable to move," Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele said. In court papers, prosecutors said the drugs were the cold medicine Benadryl or some other, unidentified substance. Steele noted that Cosby has admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
Cosby acknowledged under oath a decade ago that he had sexual contact with Constand but said it was consensual.
Bill Cosby's official mugshot:
(Photo: Gallo Images)
Cosby tripped outside court
Wearing a black-and-white hooded sweater, Cosby tripped on a curb as he made his way into court. Inside, he seemed to have trouble seeing the paperwork and finding the place to sign, and his lawyers helped him hold the pen. But he seemed at ease, laughing and chatting with his attorneys.
When the judge said, "Good luck to you, sir," he shouted: "Thank you!"
Prosecutors reopened the case over the summer as damaging testimony was unsealed in Constand's related civil lawsuit against Cosby and as dozens of other women came forward with similar accusations that destroyed his good-guy image as America's Dad.
"Reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers," said Steele, who is the top deputy in the DA's office and will take over next week.
In court papers, prosecutors said there are probably other women who were similarly drugged and violated by Cosby. Steele urged them to come forward.
Constand, now 42, lives in Toronto and works as a massage therapist. Her attorney, Dolores Troiani, welcomed the charges.
"She feels that they believe her, and to any victim, that is foremost in your mind: Are people going to believe me?" Troiani said. The attorney added: "Naturally it is troubling that it took until the eleventh hour for this day to arrive. She is hopeful that her patience has encouraged other victims to come forward."
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