Saturday 29 April 2017

Bill Cosby sexual assault claims 'politically motivated'

Bill Cosby, centre, leaves the Cheltenham Township Police Department where he was processed after being arraigned on assault charges in Elkins Park, Philadelphia (AP)
Bill Cosby, centre, leaves the Cheltenham Township Police Department where he was processed after being arraigned on assault charges in Elkins Park, Philadelphia (AP)

Bill Cosby's lawyer has claimed that the sexual assault case against the comedian was politically motivated, brought by a newly-elected district attorney to make good on a campaign pledge.

"What we have is not the effectuation of justice. What we have is the fulfilment of a campaign promise," Monique Pressley said on ABC's Good Morning America.

District attorney-elect Kevin R Steele was not immediately available for comment, his office said.

Cosby, 78, was charged on Wednesday with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home 12 years ago in a case that could send him to prison for up to a decade. He was released on 1 million dollar (£678,000) bail.

The case marks the first time Cosby has been charged with a sex crime after decades of allegations from dozens of women who say they were drugged and violated by the TV star.

He is accused of plying former Temple University employee Andrea Constand with wine and pills - perhaps Benadryl, perhaps quaaludes, prosecutors suggested - and then penetrating her with his fingers while she was unable to move or protest.

Cosby's lawyer disputed the charges, saying Cosby and his accuser had a "consensual adult relationship".

The decision to prosecute came just days before Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was going to run out. It represents an about-face by the District Attorney's office, which under then-district attorney Bruce Castor declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when Ms Constand first went to police.

Mr Castor tried to reclaim his job as district attorney in the November election but lost to Mr Steele in a hotly-contested race in which the Cosby case played a central role.

Mr Steele - who takes over next week - attacked Mr Castor during the campaign for not prosecuting Cosby, running an ad that said: "Bruce Castor was not looking out for the victims."

But Mr Steele never said what he would do if he were elected.

After the charges came down, Cosby's lawyer accused Mr Steele of "playing political football" with Cosby's life. She told morning network shows that Mr Steele made a promise and had to make good on it before the statute of limitations ran out.

Prosecutors reopened the case over the summer after damaging evidence from Mr Constand's lawsuit against Cosby was unsealed by a judge at the request of The Associated Press.

Among other things, Cosby admitted obtaining quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with. But he said he never gave them such drugs without their knowledge.

The release of the evidence set off a torrent of allegations from other women that all but destroyed Cosby's good-guy image.

"Reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers," Mr Steele said in announcing the charges.

Ms Constand, who is now 42 and lives in Toronto, welcomed the charges, said her lawyer, Dolores Troiani. "She feels that they believe her, and to any victim, that is foremost in your mind: Are people going to believe me?" Ms Troiani said.

On Wednesday, Cosby, holding a cane, walked slowly and unsteadily into court on the arms of his lawyers, tripping on a curb as he made his way into the building. Inside, he seemed to have trouble seeing the paperwork and finding the place to sign, and his lawyers helped him hold the pen.

Cosby also faces a raft of defamation and sexual-abuse lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania. But in nearly every case, it is too late to file criminal charges.

One exception: a 2008 case involving a model at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. It is still under investigation by police.

A key question if the Pennsylvania case goes to trial is whether the judge will allow evidence from some of those other accusers to show a pattern of "bad acts".

The judge could decide such evidence would be unfair to Cosby.

Press Association

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