Last week, Bill Cosby attempted to reverse the narrative of alleged sexual assaults and exploitations by filing a defamation suit against one of his most vocal public accusers. Today, that strategy may have been mooted by a district attorney in suburban Philadelphia. Prosecutors charged the once-revered comic with felony aggravated indecent assault in a case going back to 2004, the first criminal charges filed against Cosby in the scandal (via Drudge):
Authorities in suburban Philadelphia charged comic legend Bill Cosby with a felony count stemming from a sexual attack on a former Temple University employee at his Pennsylvania home in early 2004 where prosecutors allege he gave the woman wine and pills.
Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a first-degree felony, said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. …
It’s the first criminal case against Cosby over his conduct with women, which has received new scrutiny in the past year. The 78-year-old comedian previously said under oath that he had consensual sexual contact with the woman.
A former Temple University employee who considered Cosby to be a mentor and friend told police the comedian drugged and violated her at his home in Cheltenham Township in 2004. Prosecutors said Cosby urged the victim to take three blue pills and drink wine before he positioned himself on top of her on a couch, fondled her and penetrated the woman.
Prosecutors did not name the complainant, but the description sounds strikingly similar to the case of Andrea Constand, who settled a civil case against Cosby in 2006, CNN notes:
The district attorney did not name the victim, but the facts he announced parallel the allegations made by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who accused Cosby of drugging and fondling her in January 2004.
Constand settled a civil case against Cosby in 2006. Pennsylvania law has a 12-year statute of limitations for sexual assault cases, a window that closes early next year.
The Constand case has been a flashpoint in the controversy swirling around Cosby. Thanks to the settlement in 2006, the depositions in that case have remained under seal. This summer, Constand went public to demand that the depositions get released, arguing that Cosby had violated the agreement by commenting publicly on the case. The Associated Press did get their hands on a portion of the deposition, in which Cosby admitted acquiring a supply of Quaaludes to dose women in order to have sex with them, admitting to two such episodes in the late 1970s, although he insisted that both cases the women knew about it and consented to it. The AP got a judge to agree that Cosby had damaged his own claim of privacy with his public statements, and release of the deposition now served the public interest.
That was an embarrassing development for Cosby. This new charge is a lot more serious than some public humiliation. Cosby can take the Fifth (and likely will), but those depositions will be admissible in court along with the testimony of Constand, if she is the victim in this case. He may not get prison time if convicted — a judge may be reluctant to send a 78-year-old in poor health to prison — but his legacy would almost certainly get the death penalty.