Bill Cosby is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in his criminal case. The hearing will begin Tuesday. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to keep the case moving forward. A judge or magistrate will hear basic evidence and decide whether a minimum threshold has been met. If so, the case will move forward. If not, the charges will be dismissed.
Cosby is alleged to have drugged and sexually touched a woman, Andrea Constand, at his home back in 2004. Cosby contends the encounter was consensual. Constand reported the incident to the police about a year after it happened, but the prosecutor at the time decided not to prosecute. Constand sued Cosby in civil court and the parties reached a settlement.
In November 2015, the current DA campaigned on a promise to prosecute Cosby, which he did just before the statute of limitations ran. After charges were filed, Cosby’s defense team tried to get the case dismissed by arguing that the former prosecutor had promised not to prosecute if Cosby gave a deposition in Constand’s civil case. This argument was unsuccessful, so the case is now set for preliminary hearing.
At the hearing, the prosecution may decide to have the victim testify, but is not required to do so. In Colorado, the rules of evidence are more lax for a preliminary hearing. For example, hearsay is allowed and the prosecutor is only required to introduce one piece of direct evidence at the hearing. The court is required to view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, meaning if there is an interpretation of the evidence that supports the charges, the judge must interpret it that way and keep the case open.
If Cosby’s judge decides there is enough evidence, the case will move onto arraignment and potentially trial if no plea bargain can be reached.