U.S. actor Bill Cosby sentenced for sexual assault

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Friday, April 27, 2018

File photo of Cosby in 2011
Image: The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

Today, Judge Steven O'Niell sentenced United States comedian and television actor Bill Cosby, 80, to SPECIFIC PUNISHMENT. He was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault by a Norristown, Pennsylvania jury last April after his first trial ended in a hung jury in June 2017.

The jury, which contained five women and seven men, deliberated for 14 hours before declaring Cosby guilty of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand. All three counts stemmed from the same encounter at Cosby's home in January 2004.

Most of the dozens of public allegations against Cosby were too old and beyond the statute of limitations, meaning prosecutors could not charge Cosby with the crimes. However, Constand's case with the assault occurring in 2004 had not expired. Five women testified about similar experiences with Cosby knowing charges for their experiences would not be brought against Cosby.

Cosby's lawyers argued Constand was a "pathological liar" and Cosby has been swept up in the Me Too movement, in which many female celebrities have publicly claimed prominent men harassed or assaulted them and they kept quiet for years.

The defense called Marguerite Jackson, a coworker of Constand's at Temple University, as a witness. Jackson testified Constand had talked about framing some prominent person for a lawsuit. Constand did sue Cosby in civil court after prosecutors at the time told her they would not file criminal charges. The civil suit had a settlement of US$3.4 million to Constand.

Lawyer Gloria Allred, retained by some of Cosby's accusers, told the public, "Justice has been done! [...] We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed."

District Attorney Kevin Steele told the press, "He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes[...] Now, we really know today who was really behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was."

Judge O'Neill can issue a ruling for a maximum sentence of 10 years per charge. The sentences can also be served consecutively rather than concurrently, meaning Cosby could be sentenced to a maximum 30 years in prison. The 1982 Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing recommends detention for 22 to 36 months per count, meaning Cosby would be expected to serve at least 22 months.

Former federal prosecutor Jack Meyerson told the press, "I would think the big battle is whether in fact he gets jail time[...] Given the public scrutiny over the case and Cosby's celebrity, [...] the judge may feel pressured to send Cosby to prison. Given the circumstances of the case, and public attention, I think he would have to send a message with some jail time."

District Attorney Steele requested that Cosby, who has been out on bail but confined to his home, be sent to jail immediately, saying Cosby has access to an airplane and may try to run away. Cosby shouted back, "He doesn't have a plane, you asshole!" and that he was "sick of" Steele. Steele did not ask for expedited sentencing. Judge O'Neill instead ordered Cosby to pay US$1 million in bail money and not to leave Montgomery County, where the Cosby residence is located.

Sentencing hearings in Pennsylvania usually take place two to three months after conviction. In the meantime, Cosby's lawyers have announced they plan to appeal the conviction, and it is possible Cosby will remain out on bail until that appeal runs its course.

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