Bill Cosby Charged With Sexual Assault

Bill Cosby arriving to court NEW - H 2015
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

These are the first criminal charges against Cosby over his conduct with women.

Bill Cosby has been charged with allegedly sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004.

The 78-year-old comedian was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony, Montgomery County, Pa., district attorney-elect Kevin Steele announced at a press conference on Wednesday. The alleged victim is former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who was not named at Wednesday's press conference but was in the affadavit of probable cause, attached to the criminal complaint, which can be read in full here.

Steele said the charges were filed as a result of new information that came to light through depositions in Constand's 2005 lawsuit, in which she accused Cosby of drugging and molesting her, that were unsealed in July and obtained by The New York Times and The Associated Press. At that point, the district attorney's office determined the 12-year statute of limitations in the case hadn't expired and the case was reopened, Steele said, explaining that his team reviewed the initial investigation and evidence and re-interviewed witnesses.

The alleged assault took place in 2004, Steele said, explaining that the prosecutor's office is arguing that Cosby established a relationship with Constand after meeting her through the Temple University basketball program. She allegedly saw him as a mentor and friend.

He allegedly made two sexual advances toward Constand, which were rejected. The night of the alleged incident, Cosby allegedly urged the victim to take pills he provided and drink wine, Steele said. The effect rendered her unable to move and respond to his advances, prosecutors allege. According to an affadavit, Cosby provided Constand with wine and three blue pills. After she drank the wine and took the pills with water, Cosby led her to a couch, the affadavit states. Positioning himself behind her, Cosby allegedly fondled her breasts, put his hands inside her pants and penetrated her with his fingers. During the alleged assault, Cosby also put her hand on his erect penis, the affadavit states. Prosecutors argue that Constand didn't consent to these acts.

"A prosecutor's job is to follow the evidence wherever it takes us and sometimes that means whenever it comes to light," Steele said, referring to the unsealed deposition, which led prosecutors to learn about "allegations from other victims under similar circumstances." At that point, he said, "reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers ... Today after the examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim."

Constand reported the incident to the police in January 2005, after which the district attorney at the time declined to pursue criminal charges. She subsequently filed a civil lawsuit that was settled in 2006 on confidential terms.

These are the first criminal charges to be filed against Cosby over his controversial conduct with women. Dozens of women have come forward over the past year, accusing the comedian of drugging and sexually assaulting them, destroying the wholesome image of Cosby as a father figure, one cultivated by his role as dad Cliff Huxtable on TV's The Cosby Show.

Cosby has previously denied the accusations of sexual assault by Constand and dozens more women.

Steele urged anyone with information about similar incidents with Cosby to contact the Montgomery County Detective Bureau at 610-278-3368.

In response to the charges, Constand's attorney Dolores Troiani released the following statement: "On behalf of our client, Andrea Constand we wish to express our appreciation to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the County Detectives and the Cheltenham Police Department for the consideration and courtesy they have shown Andrea during this difficult time.  We have the utmost confidence in Mr. Steele, Ms. Feden and their team, who have impressed us with their professionalism.   In that this matter is now being pursued in the criminal justice system, we will not comment further."

Neither Cosby's rep nor his attorney, Monique Pressley, have responded to The Hollywood Reporter's request for comment.

At roughly 2:30 p.m. ET, Bill Cosby arrived at the court house for his arraignment. As seen in the below video from CBS News, Cosby shook his head as reporters asked if he had any comment on the sexual assault charges. Wearing a grey tweed hoodie sweater, Cosby was led by his attorneys into the courthouse, past throngs of reporters and photographers. He tripped as he stepped up on the curb after getting out of the black SUV he arrived in.

Cosby was subsequently arraigned and will remain free on $1 million bail ahead of his next hearing, set for Jan. 14. In court, according to the AP, Cosby did not have to enter a plea but seemed to have trouble seeing the paperwork and finding where to sign and his lawyers helped him hold the pen. He seemed at ease in court, smiling as he answered the judge's questions, according to CNN.

According to the AP, in court, the judge said, "Good luck, Mr. Cosby" and he shouted in response, "Thank you!"

See Cosby's mugshot and watch video of Steele's press conference below.

Dec. 30, 9:19 a.m. This story has been updated with Troiani's statement.

11:56 a.m. This story has been updated with arraignment details.