US comedian and actor Bill Cosby is to go on trial for sexual assault in Pennsylvania later in a case that is expected to last about two weeks.

Former University employee Andrea Constand alleges the 79-year-old drugged and molested her in 2004.

At least 50 women have accused him of sexual assault, but Mr Cosby only faces charges in Ms Constand’s case due to statutes of limitations.

Mr Cosby says he is innocent and the encounter was consensual.

What is he accused of?

Mr Cosby faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000 (£19,500).

In 2004 Ms Constand was 31 when she visited Cosby’s home seeking career advice after befriending him through Temple University in Philadelphia, 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.

What is the evidence against him?

Prosecutors are expected to use the testimony of Ms Constand as well as that of another woman, known as Kacey, who says she was assaulted by him in the 1990s.

They are also expected to refer to Mr Cosby’s own admission in 2005 that he had used drugs as part of his efforts to have sex with women.

The drugs, called Quaaludes, are a sedative that was widely used recreationally in the US in the 1970s.

However Judge Steven O’Neill has ruled that the court will not hear about the 2006 civil case. Neither will jurors hear from Mr Cosby’s many other accusers.

What is Mr Cosby’s defence?

Mr Cosby says his encounter with Ms Constand was consensual.

He also says he offered women drugs as a way to encourage them to relax rather than a way to render them helpless.

On the night of the alleged sex assault, Mr Cosby says he gave Ms Constand some Benadryl, an anti-allergy medication that can cause drowsiness, because she appeared stressed.

Mr Cosby’s lawyers are expected to ask Ms Constand why she returned to Mr Cosby’s house after she said he had made previous unwanted sexual advances on her.

They may also question why the case is being brought now, more than 10 years after a previous district attorney decided there was not enough evidence to go to trial.

Will he testify?

No – Mr Cosby has said he will not testify and last month told Sirius-XM radio that he feared prosecution 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.

He has also speculated that some of the allegations against him could be motivated by racism.

Who is on the jury?

The jury is made up of seven men and five women. They include two black people and 10 white people, the New York Times reported.

The jurors are from the Pittsburgh area, 300 miles to the west of the court in Norristown, because Mr Cosby’s defence team argued that jurors there could have been affected by pre-trial publicity.

The jurors will be kept away from media reports for the duration of the trial.