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NPR Arts & Life

Judge To Decide Whether Bill Cosby Criminal Case Proceeds To Trial

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Bill Cosby was back in court today in connection to an alleged sexual assault. The complaint is more than a decade old. Today's hearing focused on why the prosecutor at the time allegedly told Cosby's lawyers he would never be charged. Laura Benshoff from member station WHYY is at the courthouse outside Philadelphia, and she's with us now. And Laura, what exactly did the prosecutor promise at the time?

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: Well, he says he promised, one, not to prosecute Cosby on criminal charges at that time, and he says that that promise holds forever. According to him, it was an oral assurance, something he told the lawyer for Bill Cosby at the time and that he says was communicated to Cosby and influenced how he acted later in different civil cases where he said some things that have since emerged, things about how he would buy drugs before he anticipated sleeping with women, that have come up now in the context of these new criminal charges.

MCEVERS: And this is a case that goes back to 2005 and a complaint made by a woman named Andrea Constand. Can you tell us about that case a little bit?

BENSHOFF: Sure. So that case happened, like you said - the complaint was made in 2005, but she actually says the year prior, in January of 2004, she, because she was a friend and a mentee of Bill Cosby, went to dinner at his house and she says went into what was a sexual assault. She waited a year. She moved home. She's from Toronto. She filed charges in Canada. And those charges were then communicated to police down here in suburbs of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. The DA at the time - his name was Bruce Castor. He says he looks - looked into those charges, and he declined to prosecute. And that is when he made that promise that was sort of debated yesterday and today in a court.

MCEVERS: And quickly, why do prosecutors now believe that they can pursue charges despite this assurance that was made before?

BENSHOFF: Well, the gist of their argument is that this assurance was extremely unusual. It was never written down. It was not communicated with lawyers for Ms. Constand. And it - and the gist of it is just that it doesn't look like any other assurance that they've seen. And they don't think that it holds them to any sort of action at this point in time.

MCEVERS: Do you think - does the judge expect that this will be resolved today?

BENSHOFF: He has announced that it is going to be resolved today one way or another. And he's also actually said...

MCEVERS: Thank you.

BENSHOFF: ...Should he dismiss this...

MCEVERS: Thank you. That's WHYY's Laura Benshoff. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.