Cosby sen­tenced to 3 to 10 years in prison

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

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.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

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.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

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.

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