Representatives of Bill Cosby have quietly contacted prominent Philadelphia-area criminal defense lawyers to gauge their willingness to defend him, sources say - a step that signals the actor-comedian's expectation that he could soon face charges in Montgomery County stemming from a decade-old sexual-assault allegation.

At the same time, a lawyer for the accuser in that case - former Temple University employee Andrea Constand - said Tuesday that her client would be a willing participant in any effort to revive the investigation that was shuttered 10 years ago.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has kept silent on whether her office has reopened the investigation into Constand's claim.

But the recent moves indicate that Cosby and Constand are preparing for a possible courtroom showdown. Should charges be filed, it would be the first time Cosby, 78, has faced prosecution on allegations from any of the more than 40 women who in the past year have publicly accused him of sexual misconduct.

In a statement to The Inquirer this month, Ferman noted that prosecutors have "a responsibility to review past conclusions" when new information comes to light. It was not clear Tuesday if Cosby's representatives - in contacting local lawyers - were merely reacting to Ferman's statement or had been notified more specifically of her plans.

Nonetheless, Cosby is preparing for any possibility, according to sources aware of discussions his representatives have had with at least two lawyers.

Atlantic City-based lawyer Edwin J. Jacobs - noted for defending mob figures including alleged Philadelphia boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi - confirmed that he had recently discussed the Montgomery County case with Cosby's camp. He said he is not currently representing Cosby and would not comment further.

Jacobs represented Cosby this year in an investigation by New Jersey authorities of claims by Lili Bernard, an actress who appeared on The Cosby Show in 1991.

In May, she accused him of drugging and raping her decades ago during an appearance in Atlantic City. That investigation fizzled when the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office determined the alleged assault occurred before New Jersey eliminated its statute of limitations on rape in 1996.

Similar time limits have affected other potential cases. Nearly all of the women who have come forward to accuse Cosby have alleged that assaults occurred decades ago.

Constand's case - which falls within Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations on felony sexual charges - is a rare exception. Now 42 and living in Toronto, she reported to police a decade ago that Cosby drugged and molested her in his Cheltenham mansion in 2004.

Bruce L. Castor Jr., who was the Montgomery County district attorney at the time, declined to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence to support her allegations.

Legal experts have said that Constand's case may have grown stronger since. They cited the dozens of new accusers and Cosby's own sworn statements - made during a 2005 deposition but released only this summer - on his relationship with Constand.

Cosby has repeatedly denied any sexual impropriety with Constand or any other woman.

Dolores Troiani, Constand's lawyer, has declined to say whether she or her client had been contacted by Montgomery County prosecutors. Both are bound from discussing their allegations against Cosby by a confidentiality agreement they signed as part of a 2006 civil settlement with him.

In an interview Tuesday with People magazine, Troiani went further than she has before in saying Constand would be willing to participate should a new case be filed.

"I think she's a very strong lady," Troiani said. "She'll do whatever she needs to do, whatever they ask of her."

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