U.S. comedian Bill Cosby was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 after allegedly giving her wine and pills that left her unable to fight back.
The 78-year-old Cosby walked into a courthouse outside Philadelphia with a cane and was flanked by his lawyers.
Cosby was charged with aggravated indecent assault — a felony that could result in 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if he is convicted. He did not enter a plea, but Cosby and his lawyers have consistently denied charges of sexual misconduct.
At a Glance: Bill Cosby Accused of Assault
The charges: Bill Cosby was charged Wednesday with aggravated indecent assault, a felony.
The accuser: Andrea Constand, a former employee of Pennsylvania's Temple University, has accused Cosby of tricking her into taking drugs before sexually assaulting her at his home in Philadelphia in 2004.
The case: When Constand filed the initial complaint against Cosby in 2005, police refused to file charges against the celebrity comedian. In 2005, Constand filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby. Court papers say 13 other women with similar allegations were prepared to testify as anonymous "Jane Doe" witnesses against him. The case was settled out of court.
Possible punishment: Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.
Other accusers: Some 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over a 40-year period; but, in most cases, it is too late for criminal charges to be filed.
Cosby was freed on $1 million bail and said nothing to reporters shouting questions as he entered and left the courthouse.
More than 50 women say Cosby sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1960s, when he first emerged as a comedy star.
The case announced Wednesday involves Andrea Constand, a former basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater.
Constand said she approached the comedian in 2004 for career advice. She said Cosby invited her to his suburban Philadelphia home, gave her wine, and urged her to take three blue pills.
Constand said she soon found herself unable to move or speak while Cosby fondled her. Constand settled a civil lawsuit against Cosby in 2006.
Cosby said during that suit that he and Constand had consensual sex. He admitted obtaining quaalude pills to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex, but insisted the encounters he had with women were consensual.
The allegations have destroyed Cosby's image as the good-natured storyteller and family man he developed over five decades as a major television comedy star.
The 1980's series The Cosby Show, in which he played a successful doctor, was television's highest-rated program for a number of years, but is scarcely seen in rebroadcasts.