Pennsylvania court: Cosby sex assault prosecution can move ahead

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Cosby Sex Assault Case Headed to Trial

NEW YORK, April 25 (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania appeals court on Monday cleared the way for the criminal case against Bill Cosby to proceed, rejecting the comedian's attempt to have the charges thrown out due to a deal he contends was reached with prosecutors a decade ago.

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The state Superior Court had put the case on hold while it considered whether to take up Cosby's unusual pretrial appeal.

The 78-year-old actor and comic is charged with drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at his alma mater Temple University, at his home in 2004.

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Bill Cosby arraigned on sexual assault charges
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Pennsylvania court: Cosby sex assault prosecution can move ahead
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Comedian Bill Cosby is seen leaving on December 30, 2015 at the District Court in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby has been charged for aggravated indecent assault for a 2004 incident involving Temple University employee Andrea Constand. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage)
Bill Cosby arrives at court to face a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Elkins Park, Pa. Cosby was charged Wednesday with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home 12 years ago. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Best quality available) In this handout image provided by the Elkins Park, Montgomery County District Attorney's office, William H. Cosby poses for a mugshot photo during his arraignment December 30, 2015 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh and charged with Aggravated Indecent Assault. Bail was set at $1 million under the condition that he surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim. Cosby was released.after posting $100,000, the required 10 percent of bail. (Photo by Montgomery County District Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
Bill Cosby arrives at court to face a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Elkins Park, Pa. Cosby was charged Wednesday with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home 12 years ago. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Bill Cosby is led from the Cheltenham Police Station after his arraignment at Montgomery County District Court on sexual assault charges December 30, 2015 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh charged with Aggravated Indecent Assault. Bail was set at $1 million under the condition that he surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim. Cosby was released after posting the required 10 percent of the bail, $100,000. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
Bill Cosby leaves his arraignment at Montgomery County District Court in Cheltenham, Pa., on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, after county prosecutors filed sex assault charges against him. (Tom Gralish/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS via Getty Images)
Bill Cosby arrives at court to face a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Elkins Park, Pa. Cosby was charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in January 2004. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Comedian Bill Cosby (C) arrives on December 30, 2015 at the District Court in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby has been charged for aggravated indecent assault for a 2004 incident involving Temple University employee Andrea Constand. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage)
US comedian Bill Cosby arrives December 30, 2015 to the Court House in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania to face charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby was arraigned over an incident that took place in 2004 -- the first criminal charge filed against the actor after dozens of women claimed abuse.AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Comedian Bill Cosby is helped as he arrives for a court appearance in Elkins Park, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. Cosby was arrested and charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in January 2004. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
US comedian Bill Cosby December 30, 2015 at the Court House in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania to face arraignment on charges of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby was arraigned over an incident that took place in 2004 -- the first criminal charge filed against the actor after dozens of women claimed abuse.AFP PHOTO/KENA BETANCUR / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele speaks during a press conference announcing the indictment of Bill Cosby for alleged sexual assault on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. At left is Cheltenham Township police Chief John Norris, and at right is Samuel J. Gallen, chief of Montgomery County Detectives. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, DECEMBER 30: Attorney Gloria Allred speaks during a press conference in response to the felony sexual assault charges levied against comedian Bill Cosby stemming from an alleged January 2004 assault of Temple University employee Andrea Constand at Cosby's Pennsylvania home December 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Allred represents 29 alleged sexual assault victims of Bill Cosby. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Bill Cosby's home is seen after his arraignment at Montgomery County District Court on sexual assault charges December 30, 2015 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh charged with Aggravated Indecent Assault. Bail was set at $1 million under the condition that he surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim. Cosby was released after posting the required 10 percent of the bail, $100,000. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Bill Cosby's home is seen after his arraignment at Montgomery County District Court on sexual assault charges December 30, 2015 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh charged with Aggravated Indecent Assault. Bail was set at $1 million under the condition that he surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim. Cosby was released after posting the required 10 percent of the bail, $100,000. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
ELKINS PARK, PA - DECEMBER 30: Bill Cosby's home is seen after his arraignment at Montgomery County District Court on sexual assault charges December 30, 2015 in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Cosby was arraigned at 2:30 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh charged with Aggravated Indecent Assault. Bail was set at $1 million under the condition that he surrender his passport and have no contact with the victim. Cosby was released after posting the required 10 percent of the bail, $100,000. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
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Constand, now 44, is one of more than 50 women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them in a series of attacks dating to the 1960s. The allegations have toppled Cosby, who built a long career on family-friendly comedy, from his position as one of the United States' best-loved entertainers.

Constand's case is the only one that has led to criminal charges, in part because of statutes of limitations. Cosby faces a number of civil lawsuits from many of his alleged victims.

Monday's ruling clears the way for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors are expected to outline some of the evidence against Cosby.

Representatives for Cosby and the Montgomery County district attorney's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers for Cosby, who has denied any wrongdoing, had argued that former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor had promised not to prosecute Cosby in the Constand case in exchange for Cosby's agreement to give a deposition in her civil lawsuit.

But current prosecutors countered that no written deal existed to back up that contention and said Castor was not legally authorized to bind his successors from pursuing criminal charges.

In February, Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court Judge Steven O'Neill rejected Cosby's bid following a two-day hearing at which Castor testified that he agreed not to prosecute Cosby if he sat for the deposition.

Cosby has portrayed the encounter with Constand as consensual and said he gave her an anti-allergy medication. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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