#Metoo claims its first scalp in Bill Cosby

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - Chris­tine Flow­ers Colum­nist Chris­tine Flow­ers is an at­tor­ney and Delaware County res­i­dent. Her col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Sun­day. Email her at cflow­ers1961@gmail.com.

#Metoo got its first le­gal scalp. It’s racked up some sig­nif­i­cant so­cial and moral vic­to­ries over the past six or seven months, but the per­son who will be looked to as be­ing the first doc­u­mented vic­tim of the new per­spec­tive on due process will be Bill Cosby.

Thurs­day af­ter­noon, a jury in Mont­gomery County found the 80-yearold co­me­dian to be guilty of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing An­drea Con­stand, mark­ing a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory for District At­tor­ney Kevin Steele. Ac­tu­ally, the scalp I re­ferred to in the first sen­tence is one he can at­tach to his belt, and it’s one that he des­per­ately cov­eted dur­ing his cam­paign for D.A. back in 2015. You have to give him credit, it’s a big and bloody one.

But he didn’t do it alone and, frankly, he wasn’t able to do it by him­self the first time around. Last year, the first jury to con­sider the mat­ter wasn’t able to reach a ver­dict, and Judge Steven O’Neill an­nounced a mistrial. Steele wanted that scalp, or I sup­pose he would say he wanted jus­tice for the vic­tims of an al­leged se­rial rapist (tomato, toMAHto) and so he an­nounced only min­utes later that there would be a re­trial.

And so there was. But dur­ing the rel­a­tive lull be­tween hear­ings, a tec­tonic shift took place on the so­cial land­scape, and Har­vey We­in­stein be­came the most hated man in Hol­ly­wood. Then oth­ers started be­ing ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct, both in the entertainment in­dus­try and pol­i­tics, which gave the me­dia an op­por­tu­nity to con­sider that priests weren’t the only ones ca­pa­ble of abuse.

Clearly, the times had changed. Clearly, the pen­du­lum had swung. Clearly, this wasn’t go­ing to be your grand­mother’s Cosby trial any more.

And as our ideas about vic­tims and sex­ual as­sault changed rad­i­cally and with a speed that not even Chuck Yea­ger, the man who broke the sound bar­rier, could have an­tic­i­pated, so did our re­quire­ments for due process. As we felt in­creased com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy — and a de­sire for ret­ri­bu­tion — for the al­leged vic­tims, the de­mands we made on pros­e­cu­tors and their wit­nesses evolved.

Whereas be­fore the word of the accuser was not enough to con­vict the ac­cused, the sounds of her nar­ra­tive be­came more con­vinc­ing. Whereas be­fore the fact that she might have waited decades be­fore speak­ing out was prob­lem­atic, that lapse of silent years be­came less damn­ing. Whereas be­fore our judges and ju­ries re­quired moun­tains of cor­rob­o­ra­tion to build a cir­cum­stan­tial case, now the sim­i­lar echoed stories of a few other women sealed the deal.

Cosby was ac­cused by more than just a few women, and their stories were iden­ti­cal: He in­vited me to his room, he drugged me, he raped me. Women who were teenagers in the 1960s pointed their fin­gers at him. Women who are grand­moth­ers now joined their voices to some who are only mid­dle aged, and some women are even younger than that. There were no claims of abuse within the last 10 years.

But #Metoo, a move­ment more pow­er­ful than an atomic bomb, shat­tered the due process par­a­digms that ex­isted since well be­fore I earned my law de­gree in 1987. Now, scalps are eas­ier to win, and this time you can do it legally and have a judge and jury af­firm the tro­phy. And that has troubled me from the be­gin­ning of the #Metoo move­ment.

I have fa­mously ques­tioned the ve­rac­ity of the Cosby ac­cusers, well be­fore #Metoo. I have writ­ten ar­ti­cles, and have be­come a bit of a leg­end in so­cial me­dia cir­cles as that “rhymes with witch who de­fended a rapist.” I re­gret noth­ing, be­cause I haven’t changed my mind about the holes that make Swiss cheese of the le­gal foun­da­tions for the pros­e­cu­tion. For in­stance, un­seal­ing a closed civil de­po­si­tion where Cosby likely in­crim­i­nated him­self in vi­o­la­tion of the 5th Amend­ment should never have been al­lowed by a fed­eral judge. Al­low­ing wit­nesses whose claims arose decades ago as proof of “prior bad acts” was more prej­u­di­cial than pro­ba­tive, and should never have been let in. Al­low­ing Glo­ria Allred any­where near a cam­era also was a con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tion of the high­est le­gal (and aes­thetic) or­der.

But more trou­bling to me than the guilty ver­dict is what I suspect trig­gered it: A lazy ac­cep­tance of min­i­mal proof, a will­ing­ness to right the wrongs of the past on the back of the pre­sent, an up­heaval in a sys­tem that has sim­ply switched one sort of vic­tim for an­other.

Bill Cosby has been found guilty. I re­spect the jury’s ver­dict, be­cause I must re­spect the sys­tem. It is the only thing that sep­a­rates us from an­ar­chy.

But I will go to bed tonight feel­ing a chill for what is cer­tainly com­ing, in court­rooms around the coun­try.


In this 2014 photo, Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, laugh as they tell a story about col­lect­ing a piece in the ex­hibit “Con­ver­sa­tions: African and African-Amer­i­can Art­works in Di­a­logue,” at the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Na­tional Mu­seum of African Art...

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