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Pa. Judge Rules Sexual Assault Case Against Bill Cosby May Go To Trial

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

His attorneys have been working to prevent this for months. But yesterday, a judge in Pennsylvania ruled there is enough evidence to put Bill Cosby on trial for sexual assault charges. Let's turn to reporter Bobby Allyn with member station WHYY in Philadelphia, who's been covering this. Bobby, good morning.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Let's just recap here. I mean, as we all know, there have been a number of women who've accused Bill Cosby of improper sexual behavior. But this is - I gather is the only instance that has resulted in criminal charges. Can you just remind us of this case?

ALLYN: Yeah, that's right. So in December, prosecutors in suburban Philadelphia announced these charges against Bill Cosby. And they were quite shocking when they came out 'cause, like you said, more than 50 women have accused Mr. Cosby of alleged sexual misconduct. And these are the first charges that he's facing.

GREENE: And who's the accuser? And remind us of the case. I mean, this is - these charges stem from more than a decade ago, right?

ALLYN: That's exactly right, yeah. So the accuser is Andrea Constand. And she was a, you know, friend of Cosby at Temple University. And the alleged incident happened more than a decade ago. And basically, she was seeking Cosby's mentorship, had, you know, socialized with him, often met with him for career advice. She went over to his, you know, suburban Philadelphia mansion. And, you know, according to Constand, Cosby gave her wine and gave her three pills. She felt very dazy and in a haze. Next thing she knew, she was feeling almost paralyzed. And she remembers Cosby, you know, allegedly assaulting her. She woke up and felt that her bra was askew. She felt violated. And a year later, she filed charges with police.

GREENE: And these charges, filed more than a decade ago, but now, in the midst of a lot of these other accusations, the prosecutors in Pennsylvania have decided to try and go forward with this case. Is that right?

ALLYN: Yeah, that's right.

GREENE: So Bill Cosby was at this hearing yesterday. His accuser, Andrea Constand, was not there, which Pennsylvania law allows. But without a witness, I mean, what exactly were prosecutors presenting in terms of evidence to the judge?

ALLYN: Yeah, and that's a really good point because this was a really controversial component of this hearing. And it's a point that was really hammered on by Cosby's legal team. But basically the two - the three, rather, witnesses that testified during yesterday's hearing was two police detectives and a police chief who were involved in the early stages of Cosby's criminal investigation.

And they basically recounted the things that Constand had told them more than 10 years ago. And that's instead of having Constand herself take the stand. The - you know, Cosby's attorney said that is hearsay, that it was ridiculous and that in his more than 30 years and criminal defense work, he had never seen a preliminary hearing advance on what he called hearsay. But the judge allowed it.

GREENE: OK, so this was sort of a procedural hearing, the judge clearing the way for this to go forward now at trial. Bill Cosby's maintaining that what happened in 2004 was consensual. I mean, what happens now?

ALLYN: At this point, they're - the - basically, it's going to move toward trial. There is a July hearing set that's not expected to be very eventful. It's basically an arraignment where Cosby will hear the charges formally. Is there going to be a plea deal? Some people are speculating about that. Cosby's attorney seems to be saying absolutely not.

But we really, you know, should be waiting for - a trial date should be - should be set some time late this summer. The exact date is sort of uncertain. But it's important to point out that if, you know, he is convicted when this does come to trial, a judge can impose up to 10 years behind bars.

GREENE: All right, we'll be watching this closely. Reporter Bobby Allyn is with Philadelphia member station WHYY, covering the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.