Comedian Bill Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault, a felony, by the Montgomery County district attorney.

The charge was filed Wednesday, first assistant district attorney Kevin R. Steele announced at a press conference in Norristown. He said the charge stems from a sexual assault that took place at Cosby’s home in early 2004.

Cosby was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Elkins Park before Magisterial District Judge Elizabeth McHugh. His bail was set at $1 million, and Cosby posted $100,000 before being released.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 14.

Cosby’s lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak, did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Steele said the statute of limitations on aggravated indecent assault is 12 years, allowing the prosecution to go forward.

He said Cosby created a relationship with the victim, Andrea Constand, through her employment at Temple University.

According to Steele, Cosby had previously made two sexual advances toward Constand before the assault, which she rejected. During the 2004 encounter, Steele said, Cosby urged Constand to take pills and provided her with wine.

Steele said the charges were filed as a result of new information coming to light in July, when U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania unsealed a number of court documents related to the civil case Constand filed against Cosby. Those documents included portions of the deposition Cosby gave, in which he admitted to obtaining prescription depressants in order to have sex with a woman. Constand and Cosby reached a confidential settlement in 2006.

The unsealed filings provided information about allegations by other victims under similar circumstances, Steele said. When that took place, he said, “reopening this case was not a question.”

Steele said the DA’s office is also examining evidence related to other alleged victims.

Allegations

According to an affidavit of probable cause included with the complaint against Cosby, the assault took place sometime in January or February 2004. Shortly afterward, Constand moved to Canada with her mother, Gianna Constand. In January 2005, the affidavit said, Constand told her mother about the assault.

When Gianna Constand called Cosby and asked what he did to her daughter, the complaint said, he apologized and offered to cover the cost of therapy. According to the affidavit, during that call, Cosby did not identify the drug he gave Andrea Constand, but he admitted to fondling her breasts, digitally penetrating her vagina and placing her hand on his penis.

On a later call with Gianna Constand, the affidavit said, Cosby asked if Andrea Constand was still interested in broadcasting, and expressed an interest in helping her financially with her educational goals.

The affidavit said Cosby’s representative provided a statement in which he confirmed that Cosby asked him to contact Gianna Constand and arrange for her and her daughter to meet Cosby in Florida. The representative said he had previously made similar arrangements with other women on Cosby’s behalf.

When police interviewed Cosby in 2005, he said he gave Andrea Constand over-the-counter Benadryl, the complaint said, and described the incident as a consensual sexual encounter.

When asked if he had sexual intercourse with Constand, the affidavit said, Cosby answered, “‘never asleep or awake.’”

The affidavit said it is undisputed that Cosby gave pills to Constand and that he fondled and digitally penetrated her. But, it said, Cosby told Constand the pills were “herbal,” told her mother it was a prescription and told the police it was over-the-counter Benadryl.

“Only Cosby knows whether the pills were indeed, Benadryl, as he alleged, or a prescription or illicit drug with even greater potential to render someone incapacitated,” the affidavit said. “Cosby’s deliberate efforts to conceal the nature of the pills he supplied to his unsuspecting victim are inconsistent with innocent behavior and demonstrate his consciousness of guilt.”

Constand’s allegations were first reviewed by former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. in 2005, the complaint noted, but Castor announced there would be no criminal charges in February of that year. Constand sued Castor earlier this year, alleging that he defamed her by telling media that her statement to police differed from her civil claims.

In an emailed statement, Constand’s attorney, Dolores Troiani, expressed appreciation to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, county detectives and the Cheltenham Police Department.

“We have the utmost confidence in Mr. Steele, Ms. [assistant district attorney Kristen] Feden and their team, who have impressed us with their professionalism,” Troiani said.

Patrick J. O’Connor of Cozen O’Connor, who represented Cosby in Constand v. Cosby, did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Civil Suits

Cosby is facing several civil lawsuits by his accusers. Many of the suits allege that Cosby defamed his accusers by denying their claims through his media representatives.

Renita Hill, a Pittsburgh woman, filed suit against Cosby in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in October, alleging that Cosby repeatedly drugged Hill and sexually assaulted her starting when she was 16 years old. She asserted claims of defamation, defamation per se, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress for statements Cosby and his attorneys made saying that her allegations against him were absurd. Her case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Hill’s attorney, George M. Kontos, said the charges against Cosby are “encouraging.” The criminal investigation may reveal information that is helpful to his client in her civil litigation, he said, although he noted that the cases are different.

“Our case is a defamation case, it’s not a criminal matter,” Kontos said. “To the extent that it’s proven or determined by a criminal tribunal that those assaults took place, it would bolster our civil claim.”

Kontos noted that it’s conceivable that Hill or other women with similar claims would be called as witnesses.

A group of seven women, Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, Louisa Moritz and Angela Leslie, is suing Cosby in Massachusetts federal court, also alleging defamation. Before Robreno unsealed parts of the Constand docket, this group had served a subpoena on Constand’s attorney seeking documents related to them.

Fashion model and television personality Janice Dickinson brought a defamation case against Cosby in May, also in Los Angeles County.

In November, Kristina Ruehli filed a federal suit in Massachusetts, also alleging defamation, and that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1965. Last week, actress Kathy McKee, who appeared on “The Bill Cosby Show” in 1971, alleged that Cosby raped her in 1974. She filed her defamation suit pro se.

Just before Green, who was later joined by the other six women, sued Cosby, Judy Huth filed a complaint in the Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging childhood sexual abuse in 1974. Model Chloe Goins filed a suit in October, alleging Cosby drugged and assaulted her in 2008 when she was 18 years old.

Gloria Allred is representing Huth, as well as 28 other Cosby accusers who have not filed civil suits. In a statement Wednesday, she noted that the standard of proof for a criminal proceeding is higher than that for a civil case.

She added that her clients will be willing to testify if the prosecutors find it relevant and admissible.

Lizzy McLellan can be contacted at ­215-557-2493 or lmclellan@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @LizzyMcLellTLI.