Bill Cosby Ordered To Stand Trial On Sexual Assault Charges
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
This case will move forward. Those words today from a judge in Pennsylvania mean that comedian Bill Cosby will stand trial on accusations of sexual assault. Judge Elizabeth McHugh rejected arguments from Cosby's lawyers that the case should be thrown out. Neither Cosby nor the alleged victim, Andrea Constand, took the stand.
WHYY's Laura Benshoff reports that the case took shape through documents. They included first-hand accounts of the alleged sexual assault that had never been heard in criminal court before.
LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: The bar for evidence is low in a preliminary hearing. The prosecution just has to show that a crime happened and the defendant was connected to it. Kristen Houser with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center was in the courtroom and says the district attorney did that via an interview Constand gave police in 2005.
KRISTEN HOUSER: The prosecution introduced statements that the victim had given.
BENSHOFF: That statement describes a time in early 2004 when Constand visited Cosby in his suburban Philadelphia mansion. She says he gave her undisclosed pills that made her legs feel rubbery and causes her to flip in and out of consciousness.
Cosby's defense attorneys hoped to get Constand on the witness stand herself. In a press conference outside the courthouse after the hearing, district attorney Kevin Steele said she was ready if called to testify.
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KEVIN STEELE: I'm not going to get into the specifics of this. She was available to testify at trial under the case law that we presented. And the judge ruled in our favor. It wasn't necessary.
BENSHOFF: Without a witness to cross examine, Cosby's defense attorneys attacked her interview statement instead, says Kristen Houser.
HOUSER: The defense went at it and, you know, tried to poke holes in victim credibility and finding inconsistencies in the statement.
BENSHOFF: Cosby's lead attorney, Brian McMonagle, took issues with parts of her statements, from the date given of the alleged result to the fact that the alleged victim was allowed to correct her statement after giving it. Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who's representing other alleged Cosby victims, was at the hearing.
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GLORIA ALLRED: The defense wanted to emphasize many times that Ms. Constand did make changes in her police statement, suggesting that somehow there is something wrong or inappropriate about making changes.
BENSHOFF: Aside from the alleged victim's interview, prosecutors also brought in the comedian's own words, in a statement he gave police in 2005. In that account, Cosby admits to giving Constand what he says was Benadryl before they had a sexual encounter. In the statement, Cosby maintained that encounter was consensual.
Defense attorneys fought to focus on the questions of consent and credibility throughout the preliminary hearing. Delving into those issues will have to wait for a full criminal trial. An arraignment is set for July 20. If convicted, Bill Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison. For NPR News, I'm Laura Benshoff in suburban Philadelphia.
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