Just weeks after he sued his accusers for defamation, and almost a full 12 years after Andrea Constand claims that he raped her, Bill Cosby has been charged with felony aggravated indecent assault for allegedly drugging and assaulting Constand in 2004.
Although Montgomery County prosecutors declined to press charges when Constand first came forward, a deposition in her civil suit against Cosby became public earlier this year, in which Cosby admitted to obtaining Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with and giving it to at least one woman. Constand claims Cosby urged her to take pills and drink wine in order to assault her.
Pennsylvania state statutes define aggravated indecent assault as indecent sexual contact after a person has "substantially impaired the complainant's power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, without the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance." Normally a misdemeanor, indecent assault can become a felony if "There has been a course of conduct of indecent assault by the person."
Over the past year, dozens of women have accused Cosby of rape and sexual assault in the past, some incidents stretching back to the mid-1960's. Most have included allegations of Cosby plying women with drugs and alcohol prior to the assault.
All states have statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time prosecutors have to charge someone with a crime. These statutes vary depending on the seriousness of the crime -- there is no time limit on murder charges, whereas some misdemeanor charges must be filed within a year of the alleged offense.
Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on major sexual offenses is 12 years, and prosecutors had just two days left to file charges against Cosby for assaulting Cormant. Criminal cases against most of Cosby's other accusers are barred by statutes of limitation, and as Elie Mystal points out, Cosby's "enduring legacy might be to get those statutes changed, as it now seems painfully obvious (if it wasn't already) that 10-15 years is too short of a time to charge a rape case."