Bill Cosby waved to fans as he left the Montgomery County Courthouse, moments after a judge ruled Tuesday that the 78-year-old disgraced comedian would stand trial on sexual assault charges.
“We love you Bill!” diehard supporters yelled, while others in the crowd outside the court hissed, “I wish I could spit on him.” All the while, the jungle of television cameras recorded the action.
“They’re trying to tear down our icons,” fumed local James King, who came to court in support of Cosby. “You’re going to beat this Bill!”
So far, Cosby has done anything but. His lawyers’ attempts to get the charges thrown out have failed, and, on Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected a motion to delay Tuesday’s preliminary hearing while he appealed the lower court decision.
After a bruising four- hour hearing, Judge Elizabeth R. McHugh ruled enough evidence exists to go forward with a trial on former Temple University basketball coach Andrea Constand’s accusations that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated.
Although dozens of women have accused Cosby of doing the same to them over several decdes, he has been charged only in Constand’s case.
Unlike most states, in Pennsylvania, a district attorney can charge someone with a crime without getting an indictment from a grand jury. A judge must determine at a preliminary hearing whether prosecutors have shown that it is likely a crime has been committed before deciding to go to trial.
For Cosby’s top-notch defense team lawyers, it was probaby their last chance to get the charges dismissed and head off a trial that could send him to prison if he’s convicted.
Despite shouting himself hoarse during the hearing, veteran Philly criminal defense lawyer Brian McMonagle was unsuccessful.
“Stop this! Stop this!” he shouted at McHugh during closing arguments of the hearing. “It should have been stopped years ago.”
Cosby could face up to 10 years for the alleged sexual assault in his Elkins Park mansion in January 2004 of the then 31-year-old Constand.
Constand was a no-show at Tuesday’s hearing, but the Pennsylvania criminal code allows such hearings to go forward on the basis of statements of victims. Three law enforcement officials who interviewed Constand and Cosby in 2005 read their statements and answered questions about the interviews.
Cosby, who is legally blind and required an aide’s help to walk into court, wore a suit and sat frowning in pained silence during their testimony. His eyes widened at times as detectives recounted his accuser’s claims.
Cosby’s and Constand’s versions of what happened in Cosby’s home 12 years ago are essentially the same: he gave her pills, which he identified as Benadryl, and the two then engaged in sexual activity. But in Constand’s version of the story, she was “paralyzed,” panicked, and deeply disturbed by what happened. In Cosby’s version, it was consensual sex.
“We began to pet … touching and kissing with clothes on,” he told police in a 2005 interview read at the hearing. “I enjoyed it.”
McMonagle harped on inconsistencies in Constand’s story, and argued that previous meetings with Cosby where he touched her body, and one where they lay on a bed together at Foxwoods Casino, indicated their relationship was consensuall. He added that after the alleged assault, she went to dinner with Cosby, and got tickets from him for a show in Canada to which she brought her family.
But Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele said Constand could not have given consent because she was drugged.
“She’s not capable of consenting. He has to assist her into the other room, he places her on the sofa,” Steele said. “He takes advantage of that for his own gratification because he likes it. That’s why he’s charged.”
McHugh agreed. The judge upheld all charges and scheduled a formal criminal arraignment for Cosby on July 20.
Judge McHugh explained her decision before saying, “Mr. Cosby, good luck to you sir.”
Cosby then spoke for the first and only time during the hearing, saying, “Thank you.”