Bill Cosby released on $1,000,000 bail
Bill Cosby has been released on one million dollars bail after appearing in court in Philadelphia on a sex assault charge.
The charge follows an alleged 2004 encounter in his home outside the city.
Police say he was fingerprinted and photographed before being released. His next court hearing is on January 14.
Cosby is charged with drugging and sexually assaulting the woman. It is the first criminal case brought against the comedian out of the torrent of allegations that destroyed his good-guy image as America's dad.
Cosby shook his head as reporters shouted questions at him before the hearing. His lawyers didn't comment.
The 78-year-old comedian said under oath that he had consensual sexual contact with the woman.
In court, he agreed to have no contact with the accuser.
He did not have to enter a plea.
The case sets the stage for one of the biggest Hollywood celebrity trials in recent times, and could send Cosby to prison in the twilight of his life.
Prosecutors accuse him of plying Andrea Constand with pills and wine, then assaulting her without her consent while she was drifting in and out of consciousness and unable to resist.
In court papers, prosecutors said the drugs were the cold medicine Benadryl or some other, unidentified substance.
The TV star acknowledged under oath a decade ago that he had sexual contact with Ms Constand but said it was consensual.
The decision to charge him came just days before Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations for bringing charges was set to run out.
The case represents an about-face by the district attorney's office, which under a previous district attorney declined to charge Cosby in 2005 when Ms Constand first told police that the comic violated her at his home in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham.
Prosecutors reopened the case over the summer as damaging testimony was unsealed in Ms Constand's related civil lawsuit against Cosby and as dozens of other women came forward with similar accusations.
"Reopening this case was not a question. Rather, reopening this case was our duty as law enforcement officers," said Mr Steele, a top deputy in the DA's office who will take over as top prosecutor in January.
In court papers, prosecutors said there are probably other women who were similarly drugged and violated by Cosby. Mr Steele urged them to come forward as well.
Ms Constand, now 42, lives in Toronto and works as a massage therapist. Her lawyer Dolores Troiani welcomed the charges.
"She feels that they believe her, and to any victim that is foremost in your mind - are people going to believe me," Ms Troiani said.
The case adds to the towering list of legal problems facing the TV star, including defamation and sexual abuse lawsuits filed in Boston, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania.
In 1965, Cosby became the first black actor to land a leading role in a network drama I Spy, and he went on to earn three Emmys.
Over the next three decades, the Philadelphia-born comic created TV's animated Fat Albert and the top-rated Cosby Show, the 1980s' sitcom celebrated as ground-breaking television for its depiction of a warm and loving family headed by two black professionals - one a lawyer, the other a doctor.
Ms Constand, who worked for the women's basketball team at Temple, where Cosby was a trustee and proud alumnus, said she was assaulted after going to his home in January 2004 for some career advice.
Then-district attorney Bruce Castor declined to charge Cosby, saying at the time that the comedian and his accuser could be portrayed in "a less than flattering light". Ms Constand eventually settled a lawsuit against Cosby in 2006 on confidential terms.