Bill Cosby was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for a felony charge of sexual assault in Pennsylvania, making the case different from the dozens of accusations of sexual assault that have been leveled at the comedian in the past year.
While about 50 women have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back to the 1960s, the case for which Cosby will now stand trial is the only one that has led to criminal charges.
That’s because the statute of limitations — essentially a legal expiration date — for accusations of sexual assault varies across states, and it has already lapsed for most of the allegations against Cosby. In Pennsylvania — where the criminal charges against Cosby were brought — the statute of limitations for rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse is 12 years. Many states have have a statute of limitations of 10 years or less.
Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, said that in 2004, Cosby gave her three blue pills that made her feel dizzy and then sexually violated her at his home in Pennsylvania. Constand’s testimony was read Tuesday during a preliminary hearing where a judge ruled that prosecutors have enough evidence to try Cosby for the sexual assault charges, the Associated Press reported. Cosby, 78, has maintained the sexual activity was consensual.
Constand reported the assault to police in 2005, a year after she says the incident occurred, but prosecutors initially said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Cosby and declined to bring charges. The case was reopened last year because new evidence came to light when the records from a previously-sealed civil suit against Cosby were released, making public a deposition in which Cosby admitted to giving quaaludes to women to seduce them.
Pennsylvania prosecutors brought charges against Cosby at the end of December 2015, just before the statute of limitations was set to expire in 2016.