Bill Cosby charges: What happens next?

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Bill Cosby

(CNN) — Suddenly, Bill Cosby can no longer escape prosecution.

The number of his accusers had grown to the size of a choir. And the refrain of the 50-plus women has been virtually the same: He drugged me; he sexually assaulted me – or he tried to.

Cosby has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. And his supporters pointed out he never faced criminal charges.

That changed Wednesday, when Cosby was arraigned in a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, court on felony charges. The charges stem from accusations by Andrea Constand, the first of the dozens of women to go public against Cosby.

If convicted, the comedic icon could go to jail. Here are some of the legal and other messes he faces.

When is the trial?

No date has been set yet, but CNN legal analyst Paul Callan predicts it could start in nine to 12 months.

Cosby’s next court appearance is January 14 for a preliminary hearing. He is now out on $1 million bail.

What has he been charged with exactly?

Cosby faces three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. In Pennsylvania law, that means he is accused of penetrating someone with part of his body without that person’s consent.

That can include taking away that person’s ability to refuse the penetration by holding them down or drugging them or carrying out the sex act when the person is unconscious.

What can his sentence be?

Officially up to 10 years max.

But that’s not likely, a former Pennsylvania assistant district attorney told

Two to three years behind bars is more customary for aggravated indecent assault, said Michael Skinner.

But given the circumstances, the judge could hand Cosby, who is 78, a higher sentence than that.

What are the chances Cosby will be convicted?

That’s up to the jury. But a lawyer representing seven of the women who have spoken out against Cosby has wagered a damning prediction.

Joseph Cammarata told CNN’s John Vause that District Attorney Steele has a 98% conviction rate.

“This is a prosecutor that clearly has identified cases and only brings cases in which he can win,” he said. “If you’re on the side of being charged by this prosecutor, that’s going to be some cause for concern.”

After Cosby was charged, his attorneys released a statement saying, “Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law.”

Will other accusers testify?

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 29 of the women, said some may be called as witnesses.

“It appears that the prosecutor has indicated that if there are other alleged victims of Mr. Cosby that they should contact law enforcement in Montgomery County,” she told CNN’s John Vause.

Steele will have to decide who he wants to call to the stand, and the judge will have to decide if the testimony is relevant and admissible.

But Cosby’s defense will likely fight having them testify, Allred said.

Is this case likely to open the floodgates for other cases?

It’s hard to say for sure, but most of the accusations against Cosby date back a few decades, which means they fall under statutes of limitations and can no longer be tried.

Constand’s case just barely squeaked by the same fate. The statute in Pennsylvania applies after 12 years, which would have nixed her case early next year.

What about the civil suits against Cosby?

Some of his accusers are suing Cosby, and he is counter-suing some of them.

One of them is Judith Huth, one of Allred’s clients, who said Cosby got her drunk then attacked her sexually after taking her to the Playboy Mansion in 1974.

She was 16 at the time.

Cosby faces at least three defamation lawsuits.

Seven women say Cosby’s lawyers or representatives hurt their reputations by saying their accusations were untrue.

He recently countersued them, saying their accusations, which he alleges are false, have damaged his reputation.

What impact will the charges have on his reputation?

Cosby’s fall has been deep.

There was a time he the embodiment of family wholesomeness for decades. Bill Cosby was Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the quintessential moral American family man.

But as rape allegations have piled up, NBC and Netflix canceled projects they had planned with him.

And television channels have nixed episodes of “The Cosby Show” from their lineups.

It will continue to stream online. Hulu, which bought the rights to the show in 2011, still offer ways to watch it, as do Amazon and Netflix.

How will Cosby pay for his legal defense?

BloombergBusiness has put 78-year-old Cosby’s net worth at about $400 million.

Despite the accusations and cancellation of TV deals, Cosby has continued touring live as a stand-up comedian to rave reviews by fans. Bbut some venues have canceled his appearances.

After all this time, why criminal charges now?

A recent election may have had a lot to do with it. But first, let’s have a look at the original complaint.

Andrea Constand’s accusations go back to 2004. She was a former basketball coach at Temple University, and Cosby was an alumnus. Constand visited Cosby in his home in a Philadelphia suburb that year, and she said he gave her pills and wine left her hardly able to remain conscious, let alone consent to sex.

She went to the authorities. But in 2005, prosecutors declined to prosecute Cosby, citing a lack of evidence.

During his campaign this year, the newly elected prosecutor, Kevin Steele, turned the Cosby case into an election issue and upon taking office promptly reopened it.

In the meantime, new evidence turned up to bolster a prosecution.

What was the new evidence?

Back when prosecutors declined to go after Cosby, Constand turned around and filed a civil suit. Cosby settled with her in 2006.

But as the chorus of accusers grew louder, the media demanded to see the court documents, and a judge unsealed them.

Their contents were scandalous.

Cosby admitted he had extramarital sex with at least five women outside his marriage, and gave prescription sedatives to women he wanted to have sex with.

That fit the pattern of what dozens of women had said about their encounters with Cosby.

“(When) we learned about allegations from other victims under similar circumstances, reopening this case was not a question,” Steele said.


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