A new development in the Bill Cosby sexual assault case means he will finally be headed to trial.
According to The New York Times, Judge Elizabeth A. McHugh ruled on Tuesday that the charges can go forward, ending five months of attempts by Cosby’s legal team to have the charges dismissed before trial.
The decision came at the end of a 3 1/2-hour hearing in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, where many crowded into the courthouse to hear the judge’s verdict. After McHugh stated her decision that the case can move forward, Cosby thanked her and she wished him luck.
Though Cosby has been accused by at least 58 women of sexual assault and abuse, the case that will go to trial is the only one in which he has been charged: the case of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee who claimed that Cosby, her close friend and mentor at the time, drugged and raped her in 2004 at his home near Philadelphia. Constand was not present at Tuesday’s hearing, but the prosecution did read parts of statements she gave police when she reported the incident in 2005.
Constand previously filed a civil suit against Cosby, which was settled confidentially in 2006. This is the first time criminal charges have been brought against him, despite sexual abuse allegations dating back to the late 1960s.
According to The New York Times, legal experts say convicting Cosby could be a challenge, due in part to the lack of forensic evidence. Since Constand waited nearly a year to report her alleged assault to police, no DNA or toxicology evidence was recovered. Other evidence, including a deposition given by Cosby during Constand’s civil suit, is likely to be challenged by his lawyers since that settlement agreement included a confidentiality clause.