An American judge has determined that there is sufficient evidence to send actor and comedian Bill Cosby to stand trial for historical sexual assault crimes.

The 78 year old, formerly a hugely celebrated figure in television, will stand trial regarding an allegation that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman, Andrea Constand, in Philadelphia in 2004.

Bill CosbyBill Cosby is to stand criminal trial regarding Andrea Constand's allegations from 2004

This comes after almost 60 women have come forward over the last 18 months to claim that they were abused by the entertainer. However, almost all of those are unlikely to ever see the inside of a courtroom as the allegations date back to the 1970s, meaning they fall outside of the statute of limitations.

However, Philadelphia Magistrate Judge Elizabeth McHugh ruled on Tuesday (May 24th) that the case regarding Constand’s allegations should proceed to a criminal trial, following a preliminary hearing in the suburb of Norristown. Cosby therefore faces three charges of sexual assault, with a possible ten year prison conviction if found guilty.

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During the hearing, police read a statement from Constand, now aged 43 and living in Toronto, and not present in court. In it, she alleges that Cosby gave her three blue pills that made her dizzy and lose control of her legs.

“I told him, 'I can't talk, Mr Cosby'. I started to panic,” the 2005 statement read. Cosby insists that encounter was consensual and that Constand never told him to stop. Constand, for her part, says that she regarded Cosby as a “mentor and a friend” before the alleged assaults took place at his home.

A trial date has not been set, but Cosby’s arraignment will be on July 20th. He also faces civil lawsuits in various other states in the U.S. over other historical allegations.

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