Embattled comedian Bill Cosby will be arraigned Wednesday for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman 12 years ago — facing the first criminal charges against him after a series of rape accusations began mounting last year.
Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a first-degree felony, Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele said at a news conference. He is expected to appear before a magistrate later Wednesday afternoon.
“Upon examination of all of the evidence, today we are able to seek justice on behalf of Mr. Cosby’s victim,” Steele said in announcing the charge.
If found guilty, Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison and would have to register as a sex offender.
Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, told police the once-beloved TV father figure drugged and violated her at his home in Cheltenham Township, near Philadelphia, in January 2004. She was named in the affidavit of probable cause against Cosby.
Constand, 42, was not specifically identified as the victim during the news conference, but Steele said that the woman “has indicated that she is willing to cooperate with us going forward.”
The 78-year-old “Cosby Show” star previously said under oath that he had consensual sexual contact with Constand. But a former district attorney declined to charge Cosby in 2005.
The following year, Constand settled a civil lawsuit she filed against Cosby on confidential terms.
Montgomery County prosecutors had until a January 2016 deadline to file criminal charges against Cosby because of the 12-year statute of limitations for felony sex assault.
More women came forward last year to claim the married comedian drugged and raped them or touched them inappropriately in past decades. The over 40 accusers have included aspiring actresses and supermodels Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson.
Cosby has never previously been charged with a crime. His lawyer has called the allegations “ridiculous” and said it’s “completely illogical” that no one would have made reports to police.
Lawyers for Cosby did not immediately respond to the charge.
Steele said Cosby knew the victim when she was the coach of Temple University’s women’s basketball team. She considered him “her mentor and her friend,” Steele added.
But after looking at new evidence presented earlier this summer, Cosby had twice made unwanted sexual advances toward the woman, according to prosecutors.
Steele said during one incident, Cosby urged her to “take pills that he provided to her” and to drink wine. The effect “made her unable to move or reject her advances,” he added.
A transcript of Cosby’s deposition in the Constand case, first reported by The New York Times in July, revealed that the comedian acknowledged he had reached into her pants and fondled her.
“I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped,” he said, according to the transcript.
He claims she had groped her in return, but she ultimately rejected him when he tried to have more sexual contact.
“The victim did not consent to any of these acts and reported that she was unable to move or speak and felt ‘frozen’ and ‘paralyzed,'” the district attorney’s office said.
In the deposition, Cosby says he gave Constand three half-pills of the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl.
Steele said Wednesday that he gave the victim “three blue pills,” but could not say whether they were Quaaludes, as investigators have previously noted. Only Cosby can truly know what they were, he added.
The prosecutor acknowledged that his office acted now because time was running out to charge Cosby in the case.
“Reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers with a sworn obligation to uphold our Constitution and to uphold the law,” Steele said.
Constand, who works as a massage therapist in her native Canada, is ready to face Cosby in court, her attorney, Dolores Troiani, said this past fall.
“She’s a very strong lady,” Troiani said, according to The Associated Press. “She’ll do whatever they request of her.”