( 4UMF NEWS ) Bill Cosby Out On $1 Million Bail:
Prosecutors in a Philadelphia suburb charged Bill Cosby with sexual assault Wednesday. It marks the first time charges have been officially brought against the beleaguered comedian, who has been accused by upwards of 60 women.
Cosby, 78, arrived to be arraigned in front of a magistrate in Elkins Park, Pa., at around 2:35 p.m. ET, and was finished and out again within 10 minutes. He pleaded not guilty, posted $1 million bail, and turned over his passport as a condition for being released on bail.
Wearing one of his trademark sweaters, he was helped into and out of the courthouse by two people on either side. His lawyers have said recently he has severe eye problems and is nearly blind.
The official charge is second-degree aggravated indecent assault. Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele defined the act as “penetration” without the consent of his victim, former Temple University employee Andrea Constand. (During his press conference, Steele mistakenly said it was a first-degree charge.)
If convicted, Cosby could get five to 10 years in prison, and up to a $25,000 fine.
“Pills were provided. Wine was provided. The victim was frozen, paralyzed. A person in that condition is not able to give consent,” Steele said.
“The evidence is strong and sufficient enough to proceed with the charges,” Steele added. The decision by his 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.
Constand expressed gratitude via her legal team for the “consideration, courtesy and professionalism” of Steele’s team. Then she said she would not comment further.
Calls to his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, and his legal-team spokeswoman, Monique Pressley, were not immediately returned.
The 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 at the end of January.
Constand accused Cosby in 2005, alleging he drugged and sexually assaulted her when she visited his then home in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia in 2004. But the then-county prosecutor declined to charge him, saying there was not enough evidence by the time she went to police.
So Constand sued him in civil court instead. That suit was settled a year later and 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, and more leaked later.
In the deposition, Cosby admitted under questioning that he obtained drugs, including Quaaludes, to give to women he sought for sex.
Lawyers for some of Cosby’s accusers and advocates for victims of sexual assault praised the criminal case as a positive first step.
“Whether the accused is a high profile celebrity or a star athlete, we can no longer allow sexual assault to be swept under the rug,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s rights organization, UltraViolet, in a statement.
George Kontos, who represents a Cosby accuser in Pittsburgh who is suing him in civil court, said he had heard charges against Cosby were “forthcoming” for some time.
“We will be following the events with great interest, as information and investigation concerning witnesses in the criminal matter could have impact in our civil case,” Kontos said in a statement.
Attorney Joe Cammarata, who represents seven accusers who are suing Cosby in civil court, also issued a statement.
“The charges clearly send a message that there is a belief of sufficient evidence to get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt — an even higher standard than in civil court. This clearly undermines Mr. Cosby’s claim that his encounter with Ms. Constand was consensual,” Cammarata said.
Cosby has denied all wrongdoing and up until Wednesday has never been charged with a crime. He claimed at the time that anything that happened with Constand was consensual.
Most of the accusations against him are too old to pursue in states with short statutes of limitation. But police in Los Angeles have been investigating more recent allegations by another accuser, Chloe Goins, who says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion in 2008, when she was 18.
So far, no charges have been filed in that case but Goins has since filed a civil suit against Cosby, one of seven pending civil suits against him filed by some of his accusers.
“On behalf of our client we are happy to see that Mr. Cosby will hopefully be brought to justice and the criminal court system,” said her lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, in a statement. “Chloe has always wanted to see Mr. Cosby face jail time for his actions.”