Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison
NORRISTOWN >> Once admired as “America’s Dad,” actor Bill Cosby’s fall from grace was cemented when a judge labeled him a sexual predator and made him America’s first celebrity to be imprisoned in the #MeToo era for sexually assaulting a woman at his Cheltenham mansion in 2004.
Cosby, 81, remained calm on Tuesday as Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill sentenced him to 3 to 10 years in a state correctional facility on charges of aggravated indecent assault in connection with sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletic department employee, after drugging her with “three blue pills,” while she visited his home in January 2004.
“I conclude this was a serious crime. It’s time for justice in a court of law. The day has come. The time has come,” O’Neill said as he addressed Cosby.
“No one is above the law,” added O’Neill, explaining no one should be treated differently because of their wealth, where they live or their philanthropy. “This is a sentence that is consistent with the overall protection of the public.”
Before he imposed the sentence, the judge told the lawyers, “I have prepared for this extensively.”
Constand, supported by family, friends and other women who have accused the entertainer of sexual misconduct, appeared to wipe tears from her eyes at times as O’Neill quoted her victim impact statement in which she said Cosby “took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it.”
“I don’t know whether the defendant read your statement. I did. I heard the impact on your life,” said O’Neill, calling Constand’s statement “powerful.”
Defense lawyer Joseph P. Green Jr. argued that Cosby be permitted to remain free on bail while he appeals his sentence. Green suggested Cosby has legitimate appeal issues and is not a danger to society.
But District Attorney Kevin R. Steele argued Cosby was not eligible for bail because of the serious nature of the charges and called the defense request a “Hail Mary” tactic.
“They’re asking you to treat him differently than others and that’s not appropriate,” Steele argued.
O’Neill denied Cosby’s bail request and ordered he be taken into custody immediately.
“This is a serious crime… a sexual assault crime. He could possibly be a danger to the community,” O’Neill said.
Realizing he wasn’t going home, Cosby removed his suit jacket, his tie and personal items and handed them to his personal representatives. Sheriff’s deputies then handcuffed Cosby and escorted him from the courtroom for the trip to prison.
Cosby initially will be held at the county jail and later transferred to a state prison facility. Testimony revealed Cosby, who is legally blind, is likely to be held at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands in Somerset County, a minimum-security facility for the infirm and elderly.
The trial represented the first time Cosby, who played Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1992, had been charged with a crime despite allegations from dozens of women who claimed they were assaulted by the entertainer.
Steele sought a prison term of five to 10 years for Cosby, arguing the actor portrayed himself as a mentor to Constand in order to gain her trust and then drug and sexually assault her. Steele argued Cosby was “not the dad he played on TV.”
But Green, who was assisted by lawyer Peter Goldberger of Ardmore, urged the judge to sentence Cosby to a mitigated sentence of intermediate punishment, which can include house arrest. Green, arguing “Mr. Cosby is not dangerous,” maintained Cosby’s old age and his blindness are mitigating factors to consider and that Cosby would be a target for others in prison.
Cosby chose not to address the packed courtroom before the judge imposed the sentence.
Before he imposed the punishment, the judge also determined Cosby meets the legal criteria to be classified as a sexually violent predator in Pennsylvania.
Those classified as predators, under current law, face more stringent restrictions upon parole, including mandatory treatment or counseling and community notification about their living arrangements.
Cosby, as a result of his conviction of the felony sex assault charges, faces a lifetime requirement to report his address to state police.
As Special Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan asked Cosby if he understood his responsibilities under the law, Cosby responded with a strong, “Yes.”
In April, a jury of seven men and five women convicted Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with sexually assaulting Constand. Cosby was in his 60s at the time of the assault and Constand was 30.
It was the second trial for Cosby. Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 ended in a mistrial when a jury selected from Allegheny County couldn’t reach a verdict.
Cosby was represented at his retrial by lawyers Thomas Mesereau Jr. and Becky James, of Los Angeles, Kathleen Bliss, of Las Vegas, and Lane Vines, of Philadelphia.
During the 14-day retrial in April, the jury comprised of Montgomery County residents found that Cosby sexually assaulted Constand while she was unconscious and without her consent while she visited his home to discuss her career.
During the retrial, Steele was permitted to call five additional women, who accused Cosby of uncharged sexual misconduct between the years 1982 and 1996, to testify, including model Janice Dickinson, who testified Cosby raped her during a 1982 meeting in his hotel room in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. During Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 O’Neill permitted only one other accuser to testify.
Steele and co-prosecutors Ryan and Kristen Feden described Cosby as a trusted mentor who betrayed the friendship he had with Constand and said the criminal case was “about trust…about betrayal.” Prosecutors argued Constand did not have the ability to consent to sexual contact.
Constand, 45, of Ontario, Canada, testifying 7 ½ hours over two days, said after taking the blue pills she began slurring her words and was unable to fight off Cosby’s sexual advances. The former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University claimed Cosby guided her to a couch, where she passed out.
Constand testified she was “jolted” awake to find Cosby touching her breasts, digitally penetrating her and forcing her to touch his penis, all without her consent.
Constand didn’t report the incident to police until January 2005, about a year after it occurred.
Cosby, who did not testify during his first trial or at the retrial, maintained the contact he had with Constand was consensual.
During the retrial, Mesereau, who successfully represented singer Michael Jackson on molestation charges in 2004, portrayed Constand as greedy and “a pathological liar” who had a financial motive to lie about a sexual assault.
For the first time publicly, it was revealed during the retrial that Cosby entered into a $3,380,000 civil settlement with Constand in October 2006. Judge O’Neill ruled that evidence of the civil settlement between Cosby and Constand was admissible evidence at the criminal trial.
Bill Cosby walks past a line of media gathered at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown in this February 2016 file photo. Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison Tuesday.
Bill Cosby walks towards the main entrance of the Montgomery County Courthouse in this February 2016 file photo. Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison Tuesday.