It probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone when Bill Cosby was officially charged with sexual assault last month. The 78-year old actor and comedian, who portrayed the wise and likeable Dr. Huxtable on the Bill Cosby Show, was arraigned last month in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania after being charged with felony sexual assault. Cosby also starred in the 1965 TV series I Spy, the first American television drama that featured a black actor in a lead male role.

The charges came after years of allegations by dozens of women that they had been sexually assaulted by Cosby. The actor has publicly denied the women’s claims, and until recently had not been charged criminally. The specifics of the Pennsylvania case involve three felony charges of aggravated indecent sexual assault that allegedly took place around 12 years ago. The alleged victim, Andrea Constand, claims that Cosby incapacitated her with wine and pills, and then fondled her and penetrated her while she was slipping in and out of consciousness.

A decade ago, prosecutors were aware of the allegations against Cosby, but declined to prosecute at that time. When Constand instituted a civil suit, they say new evidence came to light in the case. The civil case was settled in 2006, but the evidence in the lawsuit was sealed. In July of last year, a judge unsealed the evidence, including a deposition of Cosby. In that deposition, Cosby admitted to having sexual relations with close to half a dozen different women. He also admitted giving prescription sedatives to at least some of those women.

Constand’s allegations mirror in many ways the claims of more than 50 women who say Cosby drugged them and then sexually assault them, or attempted to do so. The central issue in the criminal case will likely be consent, that is, whether Constand was a willing participant in the sexual activities. The prosecutor’s position is that Constand was sufficiently incapacitated at the time of the incident that she was incapable of consenting legally to Cosby’s advances. The timing of the case reflects the fact that there is a 12-year statute of limitations on the charge in Pennsylvania.

Cosby is currently free on $1 million bail. The case is not expected to go to trial until perhaps 9 months or a year from now.

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