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Just as a 12-year statute of limitations was set to expire, prosecutors in Pennsylvania charged Bill Cosby today with felony sexual assault. They say he drugged and abused a woman at his home outside Philadelphia more than a decade ago. While more than 50 women have accused him of sexual misconduct, this is the first criminal case brought against Cosby. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The allegations come from a former women's basketball administrator at Temple University, where Cosby is an alumnus. Typically, NPR doesn't name sexual assault victims, but Andrea Constand has been public about allegations against the man she considered a mentor and a friend. Constand says she'd rebuffed Cosby's sexual advances twice before. Then, in 2004, Constand says he sexually assaulted her. Assistant DA Kevin Steele offered details of that incident at a press conference this morning.
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KEVIN STEELE: On the evening in question, Mr. Cosby urged her to take pills that he provided to her and to drink wine, the effect of which rendered her unable to move or respond to his advances. And he committed aggravated indecent assault upon her.
BRADY: Constand didn't report the alleged assault right away. That came a year later. At the time, the district attorney declined to prosecute, saying there wasn't a strong enough case. Constand filed a civil suit that was settled out of court. Then, this past summer, a deposition in the case was made public in which Cosby admitted giving women Quaaludes to have sex with them. The prosecutor said now he thinks he has a strong case against Cosby. Cosby showed up at a preliminary arraignment at a small district courthouse in Cheltenham Township. It's near his home where the allege assault took place.
BRADY: Wearing a gray sweater and carrying a cane, Cosby appeared to stumble as he walked into the courthouse. In response to reporters' questions, he just shook his head, no. That's pretty much been his response all along. A year ago in November on WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY, host Scott Simon asked Cosby to respond to the allegations. When he shook his head no, Scott pressed him a bit further.
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SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance.
BRADY: Cosby still didn't respond. He has started to respond through his lawyers, though, filing countersuits against some of his alleged victims. WHYY reporter Bobby Allyn was inside the courtroom where Cosby appeared today.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Cosby walked in the side door and was greeted by four or five dozen reporters filling up the courtroom. He took his seat - judge asked him if he understood the charges. He said that he did. Shortly thereafter, he was ushered out.
BRADY: After the hearing, Cosby was taken in a black SUV to the local police station where he was fingerprinted. He remains free on a million dollar's bail. So far, he's not entered a plea. Another hearing is scheduled in a few weeks. Andrea Constand's lawyers released a statement expressing confidence in the legal team prosecuting this case, but they declined to comment beyond that. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.