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Opinion

Opinion: Bill Cosby’s sexual assault scandal moves from the court of public opinion to the court of justice

Bill Cosby

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby is helped as he leaves after a court appearance on Dec. 30 in Elkins Park, Pa.

(Tom Gralish / Associated Press)

It’s stunning to me that Bill Cosby has been charged with sexual assault. Yes, most of the dozens of women who have come forward with their allegations seemed legitimate enough to have their complaints investigated. And most of the complaints followed a disturbingly similar scenario. (He flirted with me … he took me to his home … he drugged me …I woke up … ashamed.)

But the allegations are years, decades old. There is no forensic evidence. There are few corroborating witnesses -- or contemporaries who could back up what a woman told her at the time.  I figured the 78-year-old entertainer would live out his days in the disgrace that he seems to have brought upon himself. But I didn’t think he would walk into a courtroom, surrender his passport and have to make $1 million in bail, as he did Wednesday in Pennsylvania.

I figured Cosby would live out his days in disgrace. I didn’t think he would walk into a courtroom, surrender his passport, and have to make $1 million in bail.

There doesn’t appear to be any forensic evidence in this case either. It centers on an allegation by Andrea Constand -- who was, at the time, a Temple University women’s basketball team official -- of being drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby at his home in a suburb outside Philadelphia in early 2004. Back in 2005, local law enforcement investigated and the district attorney for Montgomery County in Pennsylvania decided not to pursue charges at the time -- although he said the case might be reopened.

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And that’s what has happened now, just weeks shy of the statute of limitations expiring.

When the depositions for Constand’s civil case were unsealed in July of this year, it wasn’t just the curious public reading. The Montgomery County district attorney -- a different one from 10 years ago -- read the court papers and Cosby’s own account of giving women, including Constand, drugs as part of what he seemed to consider his seduction ritual.

There’s no question that those court papers revealed Cosby -- through his own words -- to be an epic sleaze. The question is whether they also reveal him to be someone who clearly knew that he was setting up Constand to be assaulted and then later tried to make up for it by offering Constand and her mother apologies and financial assistance. That’s what the district attorney must prove.

It’s an aggressive and enterprising move by this district attorney. And I think we all should welcome it. Finally, Bill Cosby and one of his accusers will have their day in court. After months of bad publicity and organizations taking away honors and awards he was once given, it’s time that one of these cases moved from the court of public opinion into a court of justice.

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