Judge Steven O’Neill ruled last week that the sexual assault case against entertainer Bill Cosby will move forward. O’Neill rejected Cosby’s motion to dismiss charges of aggravated indecent assault relating to a 2004 encounter with ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand, according to NBC News.
During the two-day hearing, Cosby’s lawyers argued that the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office made an immunity, “no-prosecution” deal in 2005. The then-district attorney chose not to prosecute Cosby in return for him testifying fully in a deposition in a civil suit filed by Constand, USA Today reported.
The charges will now yield a preliminary hearing on March 8. According to The Los Angeles Times, the hearing will determine whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence to win in front of a jury. If the new judge, Elizabeth McHugh, determines that it does, the case will move to trial.
Brian McMonagle, Cosby’s lead defense attorney, declined to tell NBC News if he will appeal the judge’s decision, but Cosby’s attorneys have that option.
A former state and federal prosecutor who is now a defense lawyer, Linda Dale Hoffa, told NBC News she believes the ruling was not shocking. “If they have a chance to appeal, they will appeal,” Hoffa said. “And that would take months. They could try to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court.”
In early 2004, Cosby reportedly gave Constand unidentified pills at his Pennsylvania home and then penetrated her with his fingers, according to The Los Angeles Times.
NBC News reported Cosby has denied any criminal wrongdoing. In his deposition in the civil suit, the man best known as Cliff Huxtable in “The Cosby Show” admitted to giving Benadryl and wine to Constand, but said the encounter was consensual.
The District Attorney from 2005, Bruce Castor, testified during the hearing. He said that even though he believed Constand’s story that Cosby had “inappropriately touched” her, she had “credibility issues” that would have made it impossible to get a conviction, NBC News reported. He also said in testimony that he thought her behavior in interviews with police was “inconsistent” with that of a rape victim.
Cosby’s lawyers say they would not have let him sit for deposition if they thought that the criminal case could potentially be reopened. The current District Attorney Kevin Steele charged Cosby in December 2015 after more than 50 women went public with sexual misconduct or assault accusations against him, according to NBC News.
USA Today reported that Cosby’s lawyers have argued Steele should be dismissed from the case because of bias and politics. Steele defeated former District Attorney Bruce Castor in the district attorney race in November, and promised to prosecute Cosby while criticizing Castor for not adequately doing that job 11 years ago.
No other criminal charges have been filed against Cosby, but he is facing lawsuits by accusers in California and Massachusetts, and he has sued some of his accusers for defamation, according to NBC News.
Editor’s Note: Information from NBC News, USA Today and The Los Angeles Times was used in this report.