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Bill Cosby sex assault trial date set



A judge in Pennsylvania has set a trial date for Bill Cosby, who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Former Temple University employee Andrea Constand alleges the 79-year-old entertainer drugged and molested her.

The trial is tentatively set to begin on 5 June next year near Mr Cosby’s home.

At least 50 women have accused Mr Cosby of sexual assault, and prosecutors want 13 of them to testify.

The former star of The Cosby Show faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A lawyer for Mr Cosby welcomed the trial date, saying: “The time has come to shine a spotlight on the trampling of Mr Cosby’s civil rights.”

Once fondly known as America’s Dad, Mr Cosby was the first African-American to host a primetime television programme.

Although many women have accused him of rape, he is only facing charges in this one case due to statutes of limitations.

Thirteen of his accusers may be allowed by the judge to take the stand because the state of Pennsylvania allows witnesses to give evidence of past acts that might display a “common scheme, plan, or design”.

Prosecuting lawyers say these women could demonstrate Mr Cosby shows a pattern of behaviour that is consistent with Ms Constand’s accusations.

In 2004 Ms Constand was 31 when she visited Mr Cosby’s home seeking career advice after befriending him through Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees.

She said Mr Cosby gave her three blue pills which made her legs feel “like jelly” and that he then began to touch her inappropriately.

“I told him, ‘I can’t talk, Mr Cosby.’ I started to panic,” she said in a criminal complaint in December last year.

Mr Cosby has maintained all of his sexual encounters with women were consensual, and that Ms Constand never asked him to stop.

In 2006 Mr Cosby settled with Ms Constand after providing an undisclosed cash sum to her.

A criminal case opened this year following the election of a new county prosecutor who had made it a campaign promise to bring charges against the comedian.