NORRISTOWN — A Montgomery County judge has ruled that all the criminal sexual assault charges Bill Cosby is facing can head to trial after a preliminary hearing that didn’t include testimony from his alleged victim.
Magisterial District Justice Elizabeth McHugh ruled in favor of the charges against the 78-year-old comedian, who faces charges of aggravated indecent assault in connection with a 12-year-old incident that took place at Cosby’s home just outside Philadelphia. Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, says Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Constand was not present in court Tuesday, and there was no word on why she didn’t testify. A county detective said she spoke to Constand this week and the alleged victim has indicated she’s willing to testify against Cosby if the case makes it to trial. It was a move that drew fire from Cosby’s defense.
“No one… should ever be brought to an American court room and be held for court under these circumstances,” Cosby’s defense attorney Brian McMonagle said in a closing argument. “[Prosecutors] chose not to bring her here.”
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele was far less animated than McMonagle, but told the judge that the alleged victim’s and Cosby’s statements to authorities were enough to move the case forward. He said Cosby gave her a drug so she couldn’t consent “for his own sexual gratification.”
“When you do that to a person they are not able to consent,” Steele said, “that is a crime.”
After the hearing wrapped up, McMonagle blasted the decision, calling it “a travesty of justice.” He added: “They had 12 years to bring a case. They didn’t. And what they presented today was evidence of nothing.”
Steele reiterated afterwards that Contsand is prepared to testify, and lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents several victims who have accused Cosby of sexual assault, called today’s hearing an attempt by the defense to taint the jury pool.
During the hearing, Cosby — who wore a black suit to court and waved to supporters on his way in — sat quietly and, on several occasions, leaned back in his chair with his hands folded and stared at the ceiling.
Three witnesses testified Tuesday morning in the case: Two detectives from Montgomery County and the chief of the Cheltenham Police Department. After prosecutors called just two witnesses (one who had interviewed Constand and one who had interviewed Cosby), Cosby’s attorney called Cheltenham Township Police Sgt. Richard Schaffer, who interviewed Constand on several occasions, including in an initial phone interview.
She told him of the alleged sexual assault that had taken place a year prior, and described a call between herself, her mother and Cosby that took place so the three of them could discuss what had happened. During the call, she says Cosby told her he was “on the hot seat” and “didn’t mean to harm” her.
McMonagle repeatedly pointed out Tuesday that on a number of occasions, Constand made corrections to the statements she provided to police by crossing out details like things she said to Cosby that night, about drinking a glass of cognac, or about what they had watched on television. Schaffer said he didn’t ask her why she made changes to her original statement after reviewing it.
Cheltenham Township Police Capt. John Norris, who was called earlier by prosecutors, read aloud parts of the statement provided to them by Cosby. At one point, the comedian was asked if he ever had sexual intercourse with Constand, to which he replied “never asleep or awake.”
Cosby admitted the encounter between Constand and himself occurred, but essentially said it was consensual and that she did not say “no” or resist his sexual advances. He also admitted to giving her pills, which he said were one-and-a-half Benadryl tablets.
Det. Katharine Clark of the Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney testified first, reading aloud parts of Constand’s statement to investigators that she was “paralyzed” and “frozen” after voluntarily taking the pills given to her by Cosby. She told the investigators that he sexually assaulted her and she was unable to say “no.”
Despite that, McMonagle noted that she never said “no” to Cosby and told the judge that she had contact with him “20 times” after the alleged incident of sexual assault.
Though 58 women have accused Cosby of sexual violence, Constand’s is the only criminal case against him. The statute of limitations has expired on most of the other accusations.
Constand sued Cosby after the incident and settled in 2006. Civil depositions in that case that were made public last year were not introduced into evidence Tuesday, but were critical when Steele filed charges against Cosby in December.
In those depositions, Cosby admitted to using Quaaludes to drug women he wanted to have sex with. His attorneys have argued the depositions should not be entered into evidence as the basis for charges against Cosby, but the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled against them.