By Maryclaire Dale, AP
ELKINS PARK, Pennsylania–Bill Cosby was arrested in the twilight of his life and career Wednesday and charged with a decade-old sex crime after a barrage of accusations from dozens of women made a mockery of his image as TV’s wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable. Holding a cane, the 78-year-old comedian walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers to answer charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman less than half his age at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He had no comment as he was released on US$1 million bail.
The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with sexual misconduct despite years of lurid allegations and sets the stage for perhaps the biggest Hollywood celebrity trial of the mobile-news era.
“Make no mistake: We intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge, and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law,” his attorney Monique Pressley said in a statement.
The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania’s 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out.
The former “Cosby Show” star and breaker of TV’s racial barriers was charged with aggravated indecent assault, punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a US$25,000 fine. He did not have to enter a plea.
Prosecutors accused Cosby of plying former Temple University employee Andrea Constand with pills and wine, then penetrating her with his fingers without her consent while she was drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to resist or cry out.
She was “frozen, paralyzed, unable to move,” Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele said. In court papers, prosecutors said the drugs were the cold medicine Benadryl or some other, unidentified substance. Steele noted that Cosby has admitted giving quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.