Bill Cosby was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, marking the first criminal charges to be filed since dozens of women have come forward with allegations of being drugged and raped by the comedian.
The comic legend was charged by authorities in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County with a felony count of indecent aggravated assault stemming from an alleged attack on a former Temple University employee at his Pennsylvania home 12 years ago. Andrea Constand is accusing Cosby of drugging and violating her, according to the Associated Press.
Cosby is set to be arraigned later this afternoon, prosecutors said.
Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a felony, said Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele at a news conference Wednesday. The charges were filed just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was set to run out. Steele did not name the victim during the news conference, but said she had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He also encouraged anyone with information about other alleged Cosby victims to come forward to Montgomery County police.
Cosby attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment. The comedian has maintained in a deposition that the sexual contact with Constand was consensual.
Authorities had investigated the case at the time, but declined to press charges against Cosby in 2005. Steele said detectives decided to re-open the case after new information came to light in July of this year. Steele cited information from depositions that surfaced amid the cascade of allegations against Cosby, some going back more than 40 years.
Steele said the investigation found that Constand had previously rejected two sexual advances made by Cosby, although she still considered him to be “a mentor and a friend.” In early 2004, she went to his home in Cheltenham Township where he gave her pills, which Steele identified as Quaaludes, and encouraged her to drink wine.
Eventually, “unable to move or respond to his advance, he committed aggravated indecent assault upon her,” Steele said.
Steele would not comment on the decision a decade ago to not pursue charges. “Re-opening the case was our duty as law enforcement officers,” he said. “After examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim. … The evidence is strong and sufficient to proceed at this point.”
Steele was flanked at the news conference by chief county detective Sam Gallen and John Norris, chief of Cheltenham Township Police.
Steele said the use of drugs was a significant factor in the decision to file charges, noting that the pills had the effect of making the victim “frozen” and unable to respond to Cosby’s advances. “A person in that state cannot give consent,” he said.
The criminal complaint against Cosby paints a chilling picture of Cosby befriending Constand during her tenure as director of operations of Temple University’s women’s basketball team.
A few months after their first meeting, Cosby, who is 37 years older than Constand, invited her to his Philadelphia home for a dinner prepared by his private chef. He made a sexual advance toward her by touching her inner thigh and waist, which Constand rebuffed. During another visit to his home a few months later, Cosby unbuttoned her pants and began touching her before Constand stopped him, according to the complaint.
Despite the incidents, Constand kept in touch with Cosby and continued to see him at social and professional functions. She also visited him at his homes in New York City and Connecticut without incident.
The assault that sparked the charges took place in January or February of 2004, after Cosby invited Constand to his home to discuss her future career plans, according to the complaint. The complaint describes Constand telling Cosby she felt “drained” and “emotionally occupied” and had been missing sleep. He responded by giving her three blue pills that he told her “will make you feel good.” He claimed they were herbal.
Within a half-hour, Constand reported feeling dizzy and having blurred vision and having lost all strength in her legs. Cosby led her to a couch and began fondling her breasts. He touched her genital area and put her hand on his genitals, according to the complaint. When she awoke the next day around 4 a.m., her clothes were amiss.
As she left, Cosby stood at the door in a robe, handed her a muffin and said “Alright.” Constand left the house without saying anything.
The complaint goes into detail about Constand’s distress in the months following the assault, and her conversations with Cosby in which she pressed him for details on the nature of the pills. He apologized to her and offered to pay for her mental health counseling as well as tuition for graduate school. Constand took the case to Montgomery County authorities in January 2005.
Cosby maintained during the investigation, led by Norris, that the sexual encounter was consensual and that the pills he gave her were over-the-counter Benadryl tablets. The district attorney issued a press release in February 2005 announcing the decision to that no charges would be filed against Cosby. Constand later brought a civil claim for battery, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Cosby in federal court that was settled in 2006.
According to the complaint, the Constand investigation was reopened by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman on July 10. Investigators examined Cosby’s depositions in Constand’s civil case from 2005 and 2006, and noted inconsistencies in his story about the pills he gave her. Cosby’s admission in a past deposition of having given a different woman Quaaludes was also a factor in the charge, according to the complaint.
“Due to the fact that Cosby obtained seven separate prescriptions for Quaaludes that he did not personally ingest, nor ever intended to personally ingest, we believe it is likely he gave the drugs to other persons, including other women he planned to have sex with,” the complaint states. “This conclusion is supported by the fact that many women have recently come forward to accuse Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them.”