US & Canada

Bill Cosby says he will not testify at sex assault trial

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby arrives for the second day of hearings at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Image copyright Reuters

Embattled comedian and actor Bill Cosby has said he will not testify at his trial next month in Pennsylvania, where he stands accused of sexual assault.

Former Temple University employee Andrea Constand alleges the 79-year-old entertainer drugged and molested her.

Cosby suggested to Sirius-XM radio that racism could have played a role in his treatment over the claims, in his first extended public comment in two years.

At least 50 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

But Cosby will only face charges in Ms Constand's case due to statutes of limitations.

He has maintained all of his sexual encounters with women were consensual.

The comedian told Sirius-XM radio host Michael Smerconish on Tuesday he would not testify at the trial near his home, in Philadelphia, adding lawyers could twist his words on the stand.

"When you have to deal with examination, cross-examination, et cetera, et cetera, more than two sides to every story - sometimes it's four or five," he said.

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One of the actor's daughters, Ensa Cosby, recently said in a statement she believed her father was innocent and "racism has played a big role in all aspects of the scandal".

When he was asked whether he agreed, Cosby said: "Could be, could be".

He later added: "I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Andrea Constand says she was assaulted by Cosby in 2004

Cosby also described the allegations as "nefarious".

In 2004 Ms Constand was 31 when she visited Cosby's home seeking career advice after befriending him through Temple University, where he served on the board of trustees.

She said Cosby gave her three blue pills which made her legs feel "like jelly" and that he then began to touch her inappropriately.

In 2006, the comedian settled with Ms Constand after providing an undisclosed cash sum to her.

But a criminal case was opened last year after a newly elected county prosecutor vowed to bring charges against him.

Once known as America's Dad, Cosby was the first African-American to host a primetime television programme on his eponymous show.

During the 30-minute interview, the former The Cosby Show star said he felt compelled to break his silence for people who still believed he was innocent.

"I decided that I think it's time for me to do something so that the people who still have faith in me, the people who are still wondering what I sound like as opposed to The National Enquirer, which is very interesting reading when they write about me," he said.

Cosby, who has disappeared from the public eye over the last two years, said he plans to return to performing after the trial.

"I still feel that I have an awful lot to offer in terms of my writing, in terms of my performance," he said.

The trial is set to begin on 5 June.