As his lawyers had vowed, Bill Cosby sought Friday to temporarily halt the sexual-assault prosecution against him while he challenges a Montgomery County judge's ruling that his case should proceed toward a trial.

In filings with Pennsylvania Superior Court and the county court, the entertainer's defense lawyers said their claim - that Cosby had a legally binding agreement that he would never be charged - merits an immediate appeal.

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"If Mr. Cosby is successful on appeal, the case would be terminated immediately," they wrote.

District Attorney Kevin Steele said his office intended to argue that Cosby has no legal right to appeal the ruling. "We continue to oppose any further delay in the case," Steele said in a statement Friday.

Common Pleas Court Judge Steven T. O'Neill rejected defense arguments last week that a 2005 promise by former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. protected Cosby from criminal charges over allegations brought by former Temple University employee Andrea Constand.

After a two-day hearing, O'Neill ruled that the case should instead proceed to an evidentiary preliminary hearing March 8.

For the appeal to move forward, either O'Neill or the Superior Court must certify it and order that other hearings in the criminal case be placed on hold.

Castor, a former district attorney and county commissioner, in 2005 investigated Constand's claims that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in his Cheltenham home a year earlier. But Castor decided the evidence wasn't sufficient to win a conviction, and declined to file charges.

During last week's hearing, Castor testified that he believed a news release he issued in 2005 as well as oral assurances he gave to a Cosby lawyer effectively prohibited the office from ever bringing charges. He said he intended that his actions would help pave the way for Constand's lawyer to depose Cosby as part of a civil lawsuit she had filed - one that eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Prosecutors and Constand's attorneys said there was no proof of any non-prosecution agreement. The judge agreed.

The District Attorney's Office reopened the Constand investigation last summer, after Cosby's civil deposition was made public and as dozens of women nationwide voiced similar accusations of sexual misconduct against Cosby.

Their prosecution is the only criminal against the 78-year-old entertainer. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face five to 10 years in prison.

In the filings Friday, Cosby's lawyers said their appeal deserves to be heard in part because there are few similar cases to serve as guidance on the issue of a non-prosecution agreement.

The defense team, led by attorneys Brian McMonagle, Monique Pressley, and Christopher Tayback, also said the case against Cosby is based on the civil deposition, which they contend was given only "because Mr. Cosby relied on the commonwealth's promise that he would not (and therefore, could not) be prosecuted for the events that he discussed."

In the deposition, Cosby had described his encounter with Constand and maintained it was consensual. He also testified that he had previously acquired quaaludes with the intention of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex.

The defense lawyers also challenged O'Neill's ruling that Steele and his office shouldn't be disqualified from the case. Steele defeated Castor in a hotly contested race for district attorney last fall, and Cosby's attorneys said Steele's campaign ads attacking Castor's handling of the case violated attorney ethics.

610-313-8116 @Lmccrystal