Last week, criminal charges of aggravated indecent assault were brought against Bill Cosby. While dozens of women have come forth with similar allegations, these are the first formal charges that have been able to be brought against the comedian.
The Assault Charges Against Cosby
The lawsuit alleges that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted former Temple University employee Andrea Constand 12 years ago when she visited his house to talk about career advice. According to prosecutors on the case, Cosby drugged Constand with pills that knocked her unconscious and then sexually assaulted her.
If convicted, the 78-year-old comedian could face 5 to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The comedian, walking with the support of a cane, made a brief appearance at a Pennsylvania courtroom for his arraignment. He immediately posted his $1 million dollar bail.
The next hearing in the case is set for Jan. 14.
Aggravated Indecent Assault in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, where the charges have been brought, aggravated indecent assault is a sex offense.
To understand “aggravated” indecent assault, let’s first review Pennsylvania’s definition of simple indecent assault.
Simple indecent assault is defined under Pennsylvania code section 18 Pa.C.S. § 3126. Under this code section, a person may be found guilty if he or she engages in indecent contact in the following circumstances:
- Without the consent of the alleged victim
- By using force to compel the alleged victim to allow the indecent contact
- By threatening to force the indecent contact and/or subdue the resistance of the alleged victim
- When the alleged victim is conscious or you otherwise know that he/she is not aware of what is occurring
- If you drug or otherwise subdue the alleged victim or alter his/her resistance or mindset
- When the alleged victim has a mental defect or disability that prevents him/her from giving consent
- When the alleged victim is under 13, or under 16 and the alleged party engaging in the assault is more than 4 years older.
Aggravated indecent assault is defined under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3126 and occurs in the same situations as listed above for simple indecent assault. The difference between the two is that some type of anal or genital penetration occurs in aggravated assault, rather than just indecent contact. Penetration still counts even when it is very slight or lasts only briefly.
Constand Lawsuit Brought by Current DA
Montgomery County District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele told reporters the charges against Cosby stem from “new evidence” that was uncovered last year. Steele’s decision to move forward with pressing charges is a reversal of a decision made by the previous district attorney, who chose not to charge Cosby in 2005 when the allegations were first brought.
The lawsuit came just days before the 12-year statute of limitations was to run out. Constand first went to the police in 2005, telling them that the comedian had put his hands down her pants. At that time, Cosby told police that the sexual contact had been consensual.
The case was settled out of court in 2006.
At the time Constand was assaulted she was working for the women’s basketball team at Temple where Cosby is an alum. Now 42, she lives in Toronto and works as a massage therapist. According to her attorney, Dolores Troiani, Constand is eager and willing to work with the authorities.
“She feels that they believe her, and to any victim, that is foremost in your mind: Are people going to believe me,” Troiani said.
Assault Allegations and Mounting Charges
In light of the allegations that have been brought against Cosby by numerous women over the last year, it seems it was only a matter of time before Cosby would face formal charges. But in fact it was the comedian’s own statements that provide the strongest evidence against the comedian. In unsealed statements in the civil lawsuit that Constand brought against Cosby he admitted to having given drugs to women that he wanted to have sex with.
He was asked by Constand’s then attorney, “When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?“Cosby replied, “Yes.” He denied giving the women the drugs without their knowledge. He also said he had used sedative “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.’”
During the same deposition, Cosby testified he had given Constand three half-pills of Benadryl and that he had fondled her. “I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped,” Cosby testified.
According to Steele, “reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers.”
Moving Forward with a Trial for Assault
In light of the lawsuit, as well as the numerous other allegations against Cosby, it appears that this case might be one of the biggest Hollywood celebrity trials of our time. With such a high-profile defendant, it will up the judge to determine if supporting testimonies from Cosby’s other accusers should be heard, or if they are unfair to Cosby. For most of those cases, formal charges have not been brought due to the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitation is a law that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime committed over a certain number of years. This law is to ensure that convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated over time.
When it comes to allegations of sexual abuse, there are a number of “tolling provisions.” Tolling provisions are suspensions to the statute. This means that when these provisions are available, they can void the statute of limitation.
One such tolling provision is delayed discovery, and in Cosby’s case, where the allegations also allege that Cosby drugged them, it can be a powerful provision.
Delayed discovery is when a victim’s memory of the event is repressed. The statute is “un-suspended” when the victim consciously remembers the sexual abuse that happened. So if a person is sexually assaulted, but does not remember it due to psychological distress or drugging, but then later remembers it, they are able to bring assault charges.
But if a victim has at any point shown that he or she was aware of the misconduct at the time of the crime, or even shortly after, this provision cannot be used to suspend the statute. When a person alleging misconduct realizes the abuse, they on average have about three years to file a sexual assault claim. That length of time is dependent on the state’s laws in which the complaint is filed.
An additional consideration a judge will need to take in this case is Cosby’s legacy and image. Many potential jurors will be familiar with the allegations that have been brought against the once hero-edDr. Cliff Huxtable from TV’s “The Cosby Show.” And many might have already determine, but also conflicted views of the fallen comedian.
According to Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Cosby’s image “has already been tarnished, so I doubt that jurors would be inclined to believe him just because of his prior image.”
In light of the other allegations that have been thrown at him, late last year Cosby sued seven women who have accused him of sexual assault. The comedian is involved in defamation and sexual-abuse lawsuits in Massachusetts, Los Angeles, and Pennsylvania.
Working with an Attorney to Address Sexual Assault Accusations
Allegations of sexual misconduct or assault should be taken very seriously. These types of allegations do not just “go away,” and you will need to be prepared if you are falsely accused. Here are some things you can do:
- Do not speak with police or investigators until you have contacted a criminal defense attorney. They might try different tactics to get you to admit to a crime you did not commit. Remember that they are always trying to build a case. Simply state that you will not speak with them unless there is an attorney present.
- Get in touch with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, even if you just expect the charges to be dismissed.
- Prepare for what the allegations might bring. You will be asked to defend yourself, so you’ll need to be prepared. This means contacting witnesses that can testify or provide an alibi for you. You might also need to take psychological tests, or be asked to provide other evidence.Write down as many details as possible about what you remember.
- Study. A criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through fighting the allegations, but it’s in your best interest to understand the legal process and know your rights.
You will want to follow all the legal rules and precautions you can, and the best way you can protect yourself is by working with an experienced defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC.
Working with Sevens Legal, APC
After you have discussed the specifics of your case, your Sevens Legal, APC, will let you know your case’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any possible risks associated with punishment and convictions you may face. Your Sevens Legal, APC, defense attorney can help negotiate a plea deal or whether the best course of action is to move forward to trial, while working constantly for your best interests.
Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers put our experience to work for you. Every defendant deserves a zealous defense. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers, call (619) 430-2355. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.
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