The Slatest

Judge Rules Bill Cosby Does Not Have Immunity, Orders Sexual Assault Case to Go Ahead

Bill Cosby gives a thumbs up as he leaves the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Penn. on Feb. 2, 2016.

Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images

A Pennsylvania judge ruled Wednesday that Bill Cosby was not granted immunity from prosecution in 2005 when the then-District Attorney decided not to prosecute the comedian for the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand. The Cosby legal team had been trying to get the case dismissed, after the investigation was revived in the wake of lurid, decade-old testimony by Cosby in a civil case that was unsealed last year.

In 2005, District Attorney Bruce Castor decided the evidence brought by Constand, an employee at Temple University who said Cosby drugged her at his suburban Philadelphia home, was too shaky to take to trial. Castor said part of his reasoning for not prosecuting Cosby a decade ago were “credibility issues” with Constand; he also told the court he believed Constand was telling the truth, but had waited too long to bring charges. Cosby’s lawyers put Castor on the stand (via the Associated Press):

Castor testified that in deciding not to charge Cosby, he intended to forever close the door on prosecuting the comedian. He said he considered his decision binding on his successors. Similarly, Cosby’s lawyers said they never would have let the TV star testify in the civil case if they didn’t believe criminal charges were off the table. “In this case, the prosecution should be stopped in its tracks,” Cosby lawyer Chris Tayback argued. “Really what we’re talking about here is honoring a commitment.” But current District Attorney Kevin Steele questioned whether Castor ever made such an agreement, since it was never put in writing on a legal document and the Cosby attorney with whom Castor dealt is now dead. Steele argued that in any case, Castor had no legal authority to make such a deal…

The former DA said he made the no-prosecution commitment in hopes of prodding Cosby to testify in Constand’s lawsuit without invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In the end, Cosby testified, denying he assaulted Constand but admitting among other things that he obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to seduce, and Constand eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.

Judge Steven O’Neill refused Cosby’s motion to dismiss the case based on the somewhat nonsensical agreement for immunity. The case is still not assured of going to trial; both sided will noe enter into the preliminary hearing stage to determine if there is sufficient evidence against Cosby for the case to go ahead. The comedian could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.