Cosby loses appeal bid, criminal case to resume

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2016 file photo, actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for a court appearance in Norristown, Pa.

A Pennsylvania appellate court on Monday rejected Bill Cosby's request to dismiss sexual assault charges against him, clearing the way for the case to resume its path toward trial in Montgomery County.

In a three-sentence order, a Superior Court panel denied the 78-year-old entertainer a rare pretrial appeal. It did not address Cosby's argument that the prosecution should be stopped because of a former district attorney's decade-old promise that he would never be charged.

Thus, after a months-long respite, Cosby again faces the first substantial evidentiary hearing in the only criminal case to emerge from allegations by more than 50 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

It was unclear if his lawyers will ask the full Superior Court to reconsider the ruling or directly petition the state Supreme Court, steps that could again delay the case. Cosby's lawyers, Brian McMonagle and Monique Pressley, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

But Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, whose office charged Cosby with aggravated indecent assault in December, said he was eager to proceed with a preliminary hearing at which prosecutors can lay out their case. No date had been set as of Monday night.

"We did not believe that the defense had a right to appeal at this stage, and we are gratified the court came to the same conclusion," Steele said in a statement. "We are ready for [the preliminary] hearing and look forward to the court setting a date so we can present our case."

Cosby is accused of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University women's basketball manager, during a 2004 encounter at his Cheltenham home. She reported the incident to police a year later, but then-District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. declined to file charges.

In their appeal, Cosby's lawyers asked Superior Court to dismiss the case, arguing that Castor once promised Cosby he would never be prosecuted over Constand's claims. Castor has said he made the deal in part to ensure Cosby's testimony in a civil lawsuit brought by Constand. Steele says no such non-prosecution agreement existed.

In February, Montgomery County Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill ruled that whatever agreement Castor reached with Cosby in 2005, it was not enough to halt the current prosecution.

Cosby, who has repeatedly denied Constand's allegations, has not entered a plea and remains free on $1 million bail. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, he remains locked in legal battles across three states with other women who have filed lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or defamation, but whose claims are too old to prosecute.

Cosby has also sued Constand, alleging that her cooperation with prosecutors violated the confidentiality agreement they reached in 2006 to settle her lawsuit against him for an undisclosed sum. Constand has denied the accusation.

jroebuck@phillynews.com

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