Bill Cosby is set to appear in court today for a preliminary hearing on felony sexual assault charges in suburban Philadelphia, a precursor for a possible courtroom confrontation between Cosby and his accuser, Andrea Constand.
According to USA Today, both the accused and the accuser are expected to be present in the courtroom presided over by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth McHugh in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby is required to be there by law.
The hearing has been delayed since January and will determine whether Cosby, 79, should be tried on allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted Constand, 43, on multiple occasions both in her native Canada and at his home in 2004.
— CNN (@CNN) May 24, 2016
According to CNN, the judge is tasked with determining whether the prosecution has established reasonable cause to believe a crime was committed, and if so, will set a trial date.
Constand, a former Temple University coach, alleges that her former mentor, Cosby, assaulted her when she visited him at his home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 2004. He does not deny sexual relations but says it was consensual. Constand, who maintains she was given pills and wine that left her barely able to remain conscious let alone consent to sex, filed a complaint with police in 2005, but then-District Attorney Bruce Castor refused to prosecute, citing insufficient evidence.
Constand proceeded to sue Cosby in civil court and reached a settlement with the beleaguered comedian in 2006, which was sealed.
When excerpts of Cosby's deposition from the lawsuit were made public in 2015, in which he acknowledged obtaining drugs to give to women he sought for sex, District Attorney Keven Steele, who won election in November 2015 on a promise to prosecute Cosby, charged him in December 2015 mere days before the state's statute of limitations were set to expire.
— WFMZ-TV 69News (@69News) May 24, 2016
Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 women, was charged with three felonies, then released on $1 million bond.
Cosby sued Constand in February, claiming she violated terms of the 2006 settlement.
Cosby tried and failed to get the charges thrown out during a hearing in early February. His attorney's argued that Castor had promised not to charge him if he agreed to a deposition in Constand's civil suit. An appeal to delay the hearing was denied by the state Supreme Court on Monday, clearing the way for today's preliminary hearing.
Steele will attempt to persuade the judge that there is sufficient evidence for trial. He will likely either put Constand on the stand or introduce her "affidavit of probable cause."
Stuart Slotnick, a New York defense attorney, told USA Today says the odds of the case going to trial are good.
"The prosecution needs to meet a minimum threshold to establish facts to support these charges — it's a very low bar and it's almost always met."
— Telegraph News (@TelegraphNews) May 24, 2016
Cosby's defense team has little chance of having the case dismissed, said Slotnick. He concludes that they must focus their attention on determining the prosecution's evidence and begin trying to undermine it.
"It's much better for the defense to cross-exam the complainant in person and establish inconsistencies (in her complaint) at this early stage. The documents already available show that Ms Constand has tremendous baggage, inconsistencies and facts that don't make sense."
Should the judge set a trial date, the two sides will begin filing motions to determine what evidence will be permitted at trial.
Bill Cosby has denied he sexually assaulted any women.
[Photo by AP Images]