PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby's sexual-assault case appears to be headed toward an evidence hearing after a Pennsylvania judge refused to halt the criminal proceedings and ask the state Superior Court to review a key pretrial issue.
The 78-year-old TV star is accused of drugging and violating an ex-Temple University employee at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 and could get 10 years in prison if convicted. The defense insists Cosby had a promise from a previous district attorney he would never be charged over the encounter.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill found the evidence of such an agreement lacking after a hearing this month. Cosby's lawyers then asked him to approve an immediate appeal of the issue to the Superior Court. That would have likely delayed the scheduled March 8 preliminary hearing.
However, O'Neill in a ruling Tuesday said the legal question involved does not warrant a direct appeal.
"An immediate appeal from these orders would not materially advance the ultimate termination of the matter," the judge wrote in a brief order.
A spokesman for Cosby's lawyers said they had no comment on the decision.
They have argued that the charges stem from a political feud between former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr., who had declined to arrest Cosby a decade ago, and Kevin Steele, who invoked the case as he campaigned against Castor last fall. Steele won the race for district attorney and filed charges against Cosby in December, days before the filing deadline expired.
Dozens of women in recent years have come forward and accused Cosby of sexual impropriety spanning decades. Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992 and has been married for decades, has denied the women's accusations. The statute of limitations has expired in most of the cases against him.
Cosby, whose legal residence is in western Massachusetts, remains free on $1 million bail.
This story has been corrected to say the judge refused to send Cosby's appeal of a key pretrial issue directly to the state Superior Court.