• Mr. Cosby has said he will not testify, but the complainant, Andrea Constand, is set to offer her account in what is expected to be the most dramatic moment in the trial.
The case took 13 years to make it to trial.
The trial represents the end of a long saga, and follows months of courtroom struggles by Mr. Cosby to have the charges — three counts of aggravated indecent assault filed in December 2015 — thrown out.
Mr. Cosby met Ms. Constand in November 2002 when he attended a basketball game at Temple University, his alma mater, in Philadelphia. Ms. Constand, who had been a high school basketball star in Canada, was the director of operations for the Temple women’s team.
Ms. Constand has described taking three pills at Mr. Cosby’s home and becoming completely immobilized, during which time she said she was sexually molested.
Aggravated indecent assault carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Ms. Constand will likely face harsh defense questioning about why she kept in touch with Mr. Cosby after the alleged assault and why she took a year to take her complaint to police.
Mr. Cosby, 79, denies drugging her. He admits sexual contact but says it was part of a consensual romantic relationship.
Cosby accusers and others lined up early to attend the trial.
By 7 a.m., more than two hours before the trial was to start, about 15 people were in line for the public seats in the courtroom. Third in line was David Fulmer, 57, from Fort Washington, Pa., who said he had been in line since 2:45 a.m. “There are all these allegations against him and it’s hard to reconcile seeing him in all these different roles,” Mr. Fulmer said. “He was called America’s Dad and now he is being accused by 50 or 60 women.”
During the morning two of those accusers, Victoria Valentino and Therese Serignese, waited on the steps outside, hoping to get in.
“We are here to stand witness in support of Andrea Constand, in solidarity,” said Ms. Valentino, who had flown in from Los Angeles.
Ms. Valentino said they had booked hotel rooms for the week. Ms. Serignese could not comment because she is involved in a civil suit against Mr. Cosby. The lawyers Gloria Allred and Joseph Cammarata, who represent some of the female accusers, sat nearby in the packed courtroom.
Also in attendance was Keshia Knight Pulliam, the actress who played a daughter of Mr. Cosby on “The Cosby Show,” in what she described as a show of support for the entertainer. “Truth happens here,” she said.
Mr. Cosby, in a dark suit, arrived at the court house at 8:38 a.m. He was helped out of a black SUV by two aides and, carrying a wooden cane in his right hand, walked briskly into the courthouse. He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters.
Seasoned prosecutors, defense attorneys will square off.
The Cosby defense is led by Brian McMonagle, a prominent Philadelphia defense lawyer with a reputation for aggressive litigation, and Angela C. Agrusa, of Liner LLC, a Los Angeles law firm.
Kevin R. Steele is the Montgomery County district attorney who helped reopen the investigation and bring the new charges against Mr. Cosby.
Camille Cosby, Mr. Cosby’s wife of 53 years, was not in the courtroom for the morning session. It’s not clear whether she will be there to support him.
Also present for many observers, of course, will be the memory of the man Mr. Cosby once was — the man behind Fat Albert and Dr. Cliff Huxtable in “The Cosby Show,” who also became something of a scold later in his life with his criticism of single motherhood and low-slung pants.
Indeed, Mr. Cosby’s celebrity and the high-profile nature of the case was apparent in Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s instructions to the jurors. “You are not to read, or listen or watch anything about the case,” he said, and he warned them about making any contact with others about the case.
“You can’t even discuss the case with members of your own family,” he added.
One of the other female accusers will also testify.
The dozens of other women who have come forward in recent years to say Mr. Cosby also assaulted them will not be testifying at the two-week trial.
Ms. Constand’s complaint is the only one that has attracted criminal charges. For the many others, the statute of limitation had run out — although they may see a conviction as a vindication for themselves.
Judge O’Neill, though, allowed prosecutors to introduce one of the other accusers to give her story to demonstrate a pattern in Mr. Cosby’s behavior. The woman, identified only as Kacey, says she was drugged and assaulted by Mr. Cosby in 1996.
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