Comedian Bill Cosby was charged on Wednesday with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 after plying her with drugs and alcohol, marking the first criminal case against a once-beloved performer whose father-figure persona was already left tattered by dozens of misconduct accusations. A judge set bail at $1 million.
Hours after the charge was filed, Cosby, 78 arrived with two individuals believed to be his lawyers at a courthouse in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, at 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) for arraignment before a magisterial district judge.
"Today, after examination of all the evidence, we are able to seek justice on behalf of the victim," Kevin Steele, the newly elected district attorney for Montgomery County, told an earlier news conference. Steele made a campaign issue of his intent to prosecute Cosby.
The alleged victim in the case, Andrea Constand, a former basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater, is one of more than 50 women who have publicly accused the star of sexually assaulting them in incidents dating back decades.
See photos of Bill Cosby from through the years:
Bill Cosby through the years
Cosby arraigned on charges related to alleged sex assault; bail set at $1 mln
July 1973: The actor, Bill Cosby, in Perth. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 16: Actor Bill Cosby leaves his New York City home accompanied by his wife, Camille (L,) and a young woman with her hands over her face, believed to be one of his four daughters, enroute to Los Angeles, CA, 16 January 1997 after his son Enis William Cosby was found shot to death along a California freeway. The young Cosby, 28, was found in a pool of blood after he stopped to change a flat tire. (Photo credit should read BOB STRONG/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : Actor and comedian Bill Cosby (R) and his wife Camille arrive at the White House 06 December for a reception prior to being honored at the 21st annual national Kennedy Center Honors. Cosby and the other honorees will be saluted later 06 December at a performance in the Kennedy Center's Opera House. AFP PHOTO/CHRIS KLEPONIS (Photo credit should read CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Co-hosts Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby joke with each other during the opening of the 2000 Essence Awards 14 April, 2000 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Actor Danny Glover and basketball star Michael Jordan were two of the honorees at the ceremonies sponsored by Essence Magazine. AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL (Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images)
386603 06: Rachel Robinson and Actor Bill Cosby, who was the Master of Ceremonies, share a moment March 12, 2001 at The Jackie Robinson Foundation 2001 Awards Dinner at The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Newsmakers)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Actor Bill Cosby arrives at the NBC 75th Anniversary Special at Rockefeller Plaza in New York 05 May 2002. The actual anniversary fell on 15 November, 2001. AFP PHOTO Doug KANTER (Photo credit should read DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 9: Actor Comedian Bill Cosby shows off the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from U.S. President George W. Bush during a ceremony July 9, 2002 at the White House in Washington, DC. The medal is the highest civilian award given to those who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHILIDELPHIA - MAY 22: Comedian and member of the Board of Trustees of Temple University Bill Cosby enters the arena prior to speaking to the graduates of the Class of 2003 at Temple University's commencement ceremony in The Liacouras Center May 22, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Don Murray/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 21: Actor Bill Cosby poses backstage with his 'Bob Hope Humanitarian' award during the 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium September 21, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 12: Comedian Bill Cosby introduces the film 'Fat Albert' at Temple University's Liacouras Center for the world premiere of 'Fat Albert' December 12, 2004 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The film, based on Bill Cosby's 'Fat Albert' cartoon series of the 70's, opens nationwide Christmas day. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: Comedian Bill Cosby performs at the Apollo Theater on December 11, 2005 In New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 14: (AFP OUT) Entertainer Bill Cosby speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press' at the NBC studios October 14, 2007 in Washington, DC. Cosby spoke on the new book he co-authored 'Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 19: Bill Cosby arrives at the Esquie Magazine and Village Academies event honoring Bill Cosby at Esquire North November 19, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 26: Comedian Bill Cosby poses for photographers at the 12th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center on October 26, 2009 in Washington, DC. Cosby is this year's honoree. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 08: Bill Cosby and his wife Camille Cosby speak onstage at the Apollo Theater 75th Anniversary Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 8, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 6: Bill Cosby, Ed.D. poses for pictures before accepting the Marian Anderson Award at a gala concert produced in partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra April 6, 2010 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 08: Comedian Bill Cosby attends the Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards Dinner at the The Waldorf Astoria on March 8, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation)
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 09: Actor/comedian Bill Cosby speaks onstage during Andre Agassi Foundation for Education's 15th Grand Slam for Children benefit concert at the Wynn Las Vegas October 9, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event raises funds to help improve education for underserved youth in the Las Vegas community. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Comedian Bill Cosby promotes new book 'I Didn't Ask To Be Born: But I'm Glad I Was' at the Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue on November 2, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Bill Cosby accepts the Impact Award for 'The Cosby Show' with (L-R) actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner, presenter Stevie Wonder, actors Raven-Symone and Sabrina LeBeauf onstage at the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Host Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the 2011 Jackie Robinson Foundation awards gala atThe Waldorf=Astoria on March 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Bill Cosby performs during the Screen Gems Presents The Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on May 14, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Bill Cosby gestures to the crowd after throwing out the first pitch prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees on September 13, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 05: Bill Cosby hosts the Jackie Robinson Foundation Awards Gala at The Waldorf=Astoria on March 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 15: Actor/comedian Bill Cosby speaks onstage during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows supporting the Motion Picture & Television Fund and the American Comedy Fund hosted by Bill Cosby at the Beverly Hills Hotel on June 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for BHH)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Bill Cosby performs at the 7th annual 'Stand Up For Heroes' event at Madison Square Garden on November 6, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 22: Bill Cosby speaks during the 55th Anniversary of Ben's Chili Bowl on August 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 04: Dr. Bill Cosby speaks onstage at the The Jackie Robinson Foundation Annual Awards' Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 4, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 26: Comedian/actor Bill Cosby performs at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on September 26, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Comedian Bill Cosby addresses the Press Room during the 2014 American Comedy Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10: Actor/comedian Bill Cosby performs onstage at Funny Or Die Clubhouse + Facebook Pop-Up HQ @ SXSW - Day 2 on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Comedian Bill Cosby attends 2014 American Comedy Awards at Hammerstein Ballroom on April 26, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Actor Bill Cosby performs at the King Center for the Performing Arts on November 21, 2014 in Melbourne, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
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Neither Cosby nor his representatives could be reached for comment. He and his lawyers, while acknowledging marital infidelity on Cosby's part, have consistently denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
Cosby, who personified the model American family man in his long-running hit television show, was charged with aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The charge was filed just before the statute of limitations deadline for a criminal prosecution was to expire in January. The charge stems from allegations brought by Constand, who settled a civil case against Cosby for an undisclosed sum in 2006.
PILLS AND WINE
According to an affidavit accompanying the charge, the victim was a guest at Cosby's home in Cheltenham near Philadelphia one evening in January 2004, when he gave her wine and urged her to take three blue pills, prosecutors said in a statement.
"Shortly thereafter, the victim became incapacitated, and Cosby led her to a couch. The victim lay down ... and Cosby positioned himself behind her. Cosby then fondled the victim's breasts, put his hands inside her pants, and penetrated her vagina with his fingers," prosecutors said.
"The victim did not consent to any of these acts and reported that she was unable to move or speak and felt 'frozen' and 'paralyzed,'" prosecutors said.
When questioned by police as to whether he had sex with Constand, Cosby, according to the charging documents, answered, "never asleep or awake." The statement appeared to be at odds with Cosby's sworn deposition in the civil case that they had consensual sexual contact.
Steele said the case was brought after new information came to light this year, adding that the victim was willing to cooperate.
Constand declined to speak to reporters gathered outside her home in Toronto. Her lawyer, Dolores Troiani, issued a statement thanking the district attorney's office, adding, "In that this matter is now being pursued in the criminal justice system, we will not comment further."
"This is a very significant development," Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has represented 29 of the accusers, told CNN. Some of them have brought civil suits against Cosby.
The accusations have shocked Cosby's fans and crushed his reputation as an entertainer and father figure.
Many of them occurred decades ago and the statute of limitations for prosecuting them expired long ago.
A portion of a sworn deposition by Cosby in 2005-2006 in the civil suit brought by Constand was made public earlier this year. In it, Cosby acknowledged under questioning that he had obtained Quaaludes, a sedative that was a popular recreational drug in the 1970s, intending to give them to young women in order to have sex with them.
"EVASIVE AND CONFLICTING"
About his encounter with Constand, Cosby said under oath that it was consensual and that he gave her some Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication, to relax her.
At one point in his deposition, Cosby said he recalled thinking, "Tell your mother about the orgasm. Tell your mother how we talked," as he worried about what her mother might think.
Prosecutors in court documents cited Cosby's "evasive and conflicting identifications of the drug he gave the victim" as a key factor in their decision to charge him.
Constand, who has sought in court to unseal the record of her civil case and settlement withCosby, said in legal documents filed in July that she is a lesbian, despite his sworn assertions that their encounter was consensual and that he has a knack for reading women's cues.
"I think that I'm a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them," he said in the excerpt, published by The New York Times.
Cosby has stressed through his attorneys and in court filings that the deposition excerpts contained no testimony that he engaged in any non-consensual sex or gave Quaaludes to anyone without their knowledge or consent.
Earlier this month, Cosby sued seven of his accusers, saying the women who said they were assaulted were lying and had defamed his "honorable legacy and reputation."
The actor is best known for playing Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the family patriarch in the TV sitcom "TheCosby Show," one of the country's highest-rated television shows in the 1980s.