Could Bill Cosby Go to Prison? A Legal Expert Weighs In on His Upcoming Trial

Bill Cosby has been ordered to stand trial for criminal sexual assault against Andrea Constand

Photo: Todd Korol/Toronto Star/Getty; Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage

Now that Bill Cosby is headed to trial for the alleged 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, what is the likelihood he’ll be found guilty?

In a nutshell, it’s complicated.

So far, more than 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. (Cosby denies all claims against him.) However, despite the dozens who have come forward, he has only been charged in Constand’s case.

Cosby is facing three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each of which carry a prison sentence of up to ten years. The comedian and his representatives have denied all of the allegations against him.

Cosby says that what happened between himself and Constand was consensual, while Constand, who revealed in court papers that she is gay and that she was in a relationship with a woman at the time, says it was not.

Lawyers representing many of the women say they are willing to testify if asked.

Bill Cosby Ordered to Stand Trial

Meanwhile, a legal expert not involved in the case weighs in on what the new court case could mean for the comedian – and the alleged victims.

“The accuser has already won this case. She settled her civil suit against him and got significant monetary damages. On that level, she’s already won,” says James A. Cohen, a professor at New York City’s Fordham Law School.

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The battle inside the courtroom could be heightened if other accusers are allowed to testify. Cohen says a handful could be allowed to testify to show “similar act conduct,” which would show a pattern of behavior.

“No way in the world is any judge in the country going to let 50 supposed victims testify at trial when only one person is alleged to be the victim of the defendant,” Cohen says. “That’s not to say the court would not permit three, four, five victims to testify … The impact is very, very powerful.”

On the flip side, Cohen says Cosby has the passage of time on his side. It has been more than 11 years since the alleged assault of Constand, a former Temple University employee, at his Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, mansion.

“From a prosecutor’s perspective, the passage of time can be fatal,” Cohen says. “It affects memories, all sorts of different things.”

Despite it all, Cohen thinks the state will prevail.

“They will be successful in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Cosby had unwanted and unpermitted sexual contact with the alleged victim,” he says. “I think, in part, they will win that in getting testimony from other victims as to what his pattern was.”

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