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Bill Cosby to face trial on sexual assault charges -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In the United States, a judge has ordered that actor Bill Cosby will face trial for sexual assault.

More than 50 women have accused the 78 year old of assaulting them, but this is the first criminal case to go to trial.

North America correspondent Stephanie March reports from Philadelphia.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Flanked by his legal team, Bill Cosby arrived at the Montgomery County Court house today holding on to an aide's arm as he walked.

The 78 year old, whose lawyers say is legally blind, waved to a small group of supporters who shouted his name as he was led up the courthouse ramp.

The actor's accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman he was mentoring, Andrea Constand, at his home in Philadelphia in 2004.

Ms Constand first went to police about the alleged assault in 2005.

Back then, she told detectives she went to Mr Cosby's home to discuss her future career choices with her mentor, who is 35 years her senior.

She said he gave her some pills to relax her and some wine.

She said the pills paralysed her, blurred her vision and prevented her from speaking when she claims Mr Cosby assaulted her.

Prosecutor Kevin Steele:

KEVIN STEELE: The point of this is that it was intoxicating to her, and that she was unable to consent. That's the crime, that's the charges that we're bound over. We look forward to handling this in court.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Ms Constand wasn't in court today, a fact that riled Mr Cosby's lawyer, who was frustrated he wasn't able to question his client's accuser in person, and instead had to rely on her 2005 statement as read by the detectives she spoke to at the time.

Gloria Allred, a lawyer representing 30 other women who have accused Mr Cosby of assault, but not Ms Constand, was in the courtroom today.

GLORIA ALLRED: The typical defence tactic is always attack the victim, put the victim on trial, not your client, the defendant who is charged with three serious felonies - aggravated indecent assault in this case. So that's to be expected.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The court also heard extracts from a statement Mr Cosby made about the alleged incident in 2005.

He claimed then that he gave Ms Constand some antihistamine pills and that the sexual contact was consensual.

GLORIA ALLRED: This is just my educated guess. I don't think that Mr Cosby was thrilled that his own interview with the police was admitted into evidence because some of what he said could be quite damning for Mr Cosby.

STEPHANIE MARCH: More than 50 women have accused Mr Cosby of sexual assault but most of the allegations are too old to be taken to trial.

Ms Constand is expected to appear in court in person when the trial begins.

In court, Mr Cosby thanked the Judge when she announced her decision and she wished him luck.

This Stephanie March in Philadelphia reporting for AM.