Bill Cosby to stand trial for assault charges, judge rules

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Embargoed to NYC, Philly and Pittsburgh. Bill Cosby in court on May 24th in Norristown, PA.

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (CNN) — More than a decade after he was first accused of sexual misconduct, Bill Cosby will go to trial.

A Pennsylvania judge found enough evidence during a hearing Tuesday to proceed with a criminal trial. It’s not clear when his trial will start.

Cosby faces three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault from a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University. She was the first of more than 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.

If convicted, Cosby faces up to 30 years in prison.

Cosby’s defense attorney slammed the decision to move forward with a trial.

“The evidence presented today was evidence of nothing. They had 12 years to bring an accuser to confront Mr. Cosby. They chose not to,” defense attorney Brian McMonagle said.

“There was no evidence of a crime here. And the inconsistencies that plagued this investigation from the beginning continue to plague it now. This case should end immediately.”

But Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said the prosecution only had to “prove that a crime was committed and the defendant’s connected to the crime.”

“It’s a preliminary hearing,” Steele said. “Hearsay is admissible, and we’re just over the next hurdle.”

Accusations from both sides

As he walked into court Tuesday, the 78-year-old comedian and actor, who suffers from vision problems, held onto the arm of his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt. During the hearing, Cosby appeared to listen attentively and occasionally stretched his neck.

The prosecution’s first witness, Katherine Hart of the Montgomery County Detective Bureau, read parts of a statement by Constand in court.

In the statement, Constand said Cosby invited her to his home in 2004 and told her to wear comfortable clothes. Constand said she had been grappling with issues in her life, and that Cosby gave her a few pills to “take the edge off.”

Afterward, Constand’s statement said, Cosby sexually assaulted her.

Constand was not in court for the hearing Tuesday, a fact that Cosby’s defense team tried to capitalize on.

“After hearing the weak, inconsistent and incredible evidence presented, it is clear why the prosecution did not allow its witness to speak and be confronted by the person she has accused,” McMonagle said.

“Instead, they chose to rely on an 11-year-old hearsay statement from that witness, riddled with numerous corrections and inconsistencies.”

When questioned by the defense, Hart acknowledged that she was not present for Constand’s entire statement to police in January 2005.

Another detective finished the questioning that day. That evening, Constand was allowed to review her statement. The defense said Constand crossed out or redacted parts of the statement.

“You’re basically here to tell us what somebody told another detective 11 years ago about what happened 12 years ago?” McMonagle asked Hart.

“Yes,” Hart replied.

What did she cross out?

The defense repeatedly mentioned that parts of Constand’s statement were crossed out or redacted.

For example, when recalling a visit to a casino where Cosby was performing, Constand said Cosby invited her to his room as he was going back.

Constand initially said she went to the room, lay down on the bed with Cosby, and that they were touching. But she later crossed that out, saying the two were merely close.

Credibility is not part of the preliminary hearing, CNN’s Jean Casarez said — consent is.

The first public case

Constand was the first person to publicly allege sexual assault by Cosby.

After going to police, authorities declined to charge Cosby.

Bruce Castor, the Montgomery County district attorney at the time of the alleged incident, did not file sexual assault charges against Cosby, citing “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”

So why now?

The parties reached a civil settlement in 2006, but the case was reopened as new evidence came to light, including a number of other accusers coming forward and some of Cosby’s remarks during a 2005 deposition that were recently unsealed.

Steele, the newly elected district attorney, turned the Cosby case into an election issue. He promptly reopened it after taking office.

Cosby was charged with three felonies and arraigned in December, then released on $1 million bond.

Cosby has denied the allegations. He sued Constand in February, claiming she violated terms of the 2006 settlement.

Other accusers

Cosby has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 women. But he will never stand trial in the vast majority of cases because the statutes of limitations have passed.

On Friday, a federal judge unsealed Camille Cosby’s February deposition in a Massachusetts lawsuit filed against her husband.

At one point, she told a lawyer she had “no opinion” on whether Cosby’s admission to the alleged procurement of Quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex with violated their marriage vows.

Cosby has denied he sexually assaulted any women.

CNN’s Brian Vitagliano reported from Norristown, Pennsylvania; Holly Yan and Joshua Berlinger wrote this report from Atlanta. CNN’s Jean Casarez, Sara Ganim, Rob Frehse, Sonia Moghe and Pilar Melendez contributed to this report.