Bill Cosby's sex assault accuser will not have to testify before trial

A woman who has accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting her will not have to testify before his trial in a preliminary hearing.

Trial judge Steven T O'Neill denied Cosby's effort to compel Andrea Constand to attend a preliminary hearing where the comedian's lawyers would have cross-examined her.

They had asked the judge to dismiss the case or schedule a new preliminary hearing, arguing that they needed to cross-examine Ms Constand before trial because her statement to police raised more questions than it answered.

After yesterday's ruling, Cosby lawyer Brian McMonagle said he was confident Pennsylvania's Supreme Court will reverse the decision.

"Once again the prosecution in this case had the opportunity and the obligation to place this witness under oath so that we could conduct a search for the truth. And, once again, they refused to do so," Mr McMonagle said.

"Today, someone who has given so much to so many had his constitutional rights trampled upon once again."

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele countered that the right of defendants like Cosby to confront their accusers in court does not apply at Pennsylvania preliminary hearings.

He told the judge he was using a 2013 rule change to spare Ms Constand and other sex crime victims from multiple cross-examinations.

"It's our position that we're not going to re-traumatise victims at preliminary hearings," Mr Steele told the judge, adding that he is using the rule change in a variety of sex assault cases, not just Mr Cosby's.

Cosby, 78, was held for trial in May based on his and Ms Constand's police statements from 2005.

Cosby is charged with felony indecent assault and accused of drugging and molesting Ms Constand in 2004.

The authorities reopened the case last year after learning he had acknowledged in a deposition that he had given Ms Constand pills and then engaged in sex acts with her.

They also considered the dozens of other women who have raised similar claims in the decade since Ms Constand went to police in 2005.

Cosby calls their encounter consensual and describes the blue pills he gave her as Benadryl.

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