Bill Cosby’s criminal sex-assault case was temporarily halted days before a key hearing while a Pennsylvania appeals court considers his effort to have the case thrown out before trial.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby, right, arrives for a court appearance Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby was arrested and charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in January 2004. A judge will decide whether to dismiss a sexual assault case against the comedian over an unwritten promise of immunity that a former prosecutor says he gave Cosby’s now-deceased lawyer. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
The Pennsylvania Superior Court granted Cosby a postponement Tuesday while the court decides whether to hear Cosby’s pretrial appeal. His preliminary hearing had been set for next week.
Cosby, 78, is accused of drugging and molesting a Temple University employee in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
He said he had a promise from a former district attorney that he would never be charged over his encounter with Andrea Constand. However, a different district attorney reopened the case last year and filed charges in December, weeks before the statute of limitations expired.
The preliminary hearing to determine if probable cause exists to send the case to trial had been set for March 8. The hearing seemed likely to be postponed unless the Superior Court quickly decided to quash his appeal.
Prosecutors have argued that he does not have the right to a pretrial appeal and should instead file the usual post-trial appeal if he is convicted. A Montgomery County judge who heard two days of evidence on the issue agreed and refused to ask the appeals court to intervene. The judge, Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill, could end up with the case if it goes to trial.
O’Neill found no credible evidence of a binding agreement that Cosby would never be charged. The former district attorney, Bruce Castor, had testified for Cosby but acknowledged there was no written agreement forged.
Cosby is embroiled in civil litigation in several states, but the Pennsylvania case is the only one to lead to criminal charges. He has teams of lawyers for the case itself, for appellate issues and for a countersuit he filed last month against accuser Andrea Constand. He also is embroiled in defamation lawsuits with some of the dozens of women around the country who accuse him of molesting them.
Cosby has posted $1 million bail in the Pennsylvania case. He faces five to 10 years in prison if convicted of felony indecent assault.