Cosby returns to Pennsylvania court in criminal case

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs from a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania on February 2, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

NORRISTOWN, US - Disgraced television legend Bill Cosby returned to court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday to attend a preliminary hearing over criminal accusations that he sexually assaulted a woman working for a basketball team in 2004.

The 78-year-old, once beloved, pioneering black comedian walked into the courthouse in Norristown just outside Philadelphia, looking somber and dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and patterned tie.

More than 50 women have publicly alleged sexual abuse at the hands of the former megastar, who attained his greatest fame for his role as a lovable obstetrician and family man in the hit 1980s sitcom "The Cosby Show."

But the allegations made by Andrea Constand, who worked for Temple University basketball team and who today lives in Canada, have amounted to the only criminal assault charge brought against him.

He posted bail at US$1 million in the case last December but has yet to enter a plea. Cosby has become a public pariah since an avalanche of women have accused him of feeding them pills and having sex with them over four decades.

The vast majority of their claims cannot be prosecuted because they have expired under statutes of limitations and Cosby's lawyers flatly deny any wrongdoing by the actor.

If put on trial and found guilty in Pennsylvania, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison and a US$25,000 fine.

Constand says Cosby forced himself on her at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Prosecutors say he urged her to take pills and drink wine, leaving her unable to resist as he made his move on her.

Cosby has admitted giving Constand a pill but said all relations with her were consensual and accused her of lying about the assault.

The case was initially settled by a civil suit in 2006 and Cosby's lawyers say reopening it has violated an agreement that he would never be prosecuted.

But prosecutors in Montgomery County have justified revisiting the case, saying that new evidence came to light last July.

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