UPDATE: Bill Cosby was arraigned Wednesday on sexual assault charges. He did not enter a plea, and bail was set at $1 million. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for January 14, and he turned over his passport.
A warrant for entertainer and comedian Bill Cosby’s arrest was issued Wednesday by prosecutors in a Philadelphia suburb.
This is the first time any charges have been officially brought against Cosby, who has been been publicly accused of assaulting more than 50 women.
The official charge is second-degree aggravated indecent assault, according to USA Today. Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele defined the incident as “penetration” without the consent of former Temple University employee Andrea Constand.
“A prosecutor’s job is to follow the evidence wherever it leads and whenever it comes to light,” Steele said. “Upon examination of all the evidence, today we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim.”
“Pills were provided. Wine was provided. The victim was frozen, paralyzed. A person in that condition is not able to give consent,” Steele continued. The decision to proceed with charges had been previously denied, and it was ruled that there was not enough evidence to move forward. However, Steele’s newly elected boss, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, ruled otherwise.
Constand’s said that she was thankful for Steele’s team’s “consideration and courtesy” via a statement by her legal team. She added she would not be making any more comments.
The statement from her legal team read:
“On behalf of our client, Andrea Constand we wish to express our appreciation to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the County Detectives and the Cheltenham Police Department for the consideration and courtesy they have shown Andrea during this difficult time. We have the utmost confidence in Mr. Steele, Ms. Feden and their team, who have impressed us with their professionalism. In that this matter is now being pursued in the criminal justice system, we will not comment further.”
Cosby is expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Elkins Park, Penn., according to PEOPLE. If convicted, he could face up to a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
This particular case dates back to 2004, and under Pennsylvania law, prosecutors have 12 years to bring charges in a sexual assault case, USA Today reports. And the statute of limitations will expire at the end of January.
In 2005, Cosby was accused of allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting Constand when she visited his home in Montgomery County in 2004. However, the prosecutor at the time declined the charges saying their was not enough evidence.
So, Constand sued him in civil court. That was settled a year later and the case’s results were sealed, which included Cosby’s three-day deposition.
But this year, dozens of women came forward with drug and assault accusations dating back to the 1960s. As a result, a judge released part of his deposition and more leaked later.
In the deposition, he admitted to obtaining drugs to give to women he was planning to have sex with.
Some of the accusers’ lawyers praised the case as a step in the right direction.
“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,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of the women’s rights organization, UltraViolet, said in a statement.
And attorney Joe Cammarata, who represents seven accusers 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.