Cosby convicted of sex assault, sent to prison
NORRISTOWN >> Once admired as “America’s Dad,” actor Bill Cosby’s fall from grace was cemented in September 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, was sentenced on Sept. 25 to three-to-10years 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.
“It’s time for justice in a court of law. The day has come. The time has come,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill said as he addressed Cosby at the sentencing hearing.
“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.”
William Henry Cosby Jr., as his name appeared on charging documents, chose not to address the packed courtroom before the judge imposed the sentence.
O’Neill also determined Cosby met the legal criteria to be classified as a sexually violent predator in Pennsylvania. As a result, Cosby faces a lifetime requirement to report his address to state police.
Cosby is serving his sentence at the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix in Skippack Township. He is appealing his conviction to the state courts.
District Attorney Kevin R. 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 drugged and sexually assaulted her. Steele argued Cosby was “not the dad he played on TV.”
But defense lawyer Joseph P. Green Jr., who represented Cosby at sentencing, sought a mitigated sentence of intermediate punishment, which could have included house arrest. Green, arguing “Mr. Cosby is not dangerous,” maintained Cosby’s old age and his blindness were mitigating factors to consider and that Cosby would be a target for others in prison.
The case 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.
The comedian and actor began 2018 awaiting his second trial after his first trial in June 2017 ended in a mistrial when a jury of seven men and five women selected from Allegheny County deadlocked “on all counts” after deliberating more than 52 hours over six days.
Cosby’s dramatic retrial played out in county court between April 9, when testimony began, and April 26, when a jury comprised of seven men and five women from Montgomery County convicted him of three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. That jury deliberated about 14 hours over two days before reaching a verdict.
The celebrity trial garnered worldwide media attention and was the highest-profile case to ever play out in a Montgomery County courtroom.
During the April retrial, Steele and co-prosecutors M. Stewart 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. Constand was 30 and Cosby was in his 60s at the time of the assault.
During the retrial, Steele was permitted to call five additional women, who accused Cosby of 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, the judge permitted only one other accuser to testify.
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, lead defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr., 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 retrial.
Evidence of the civil settlement was not part of Cosby’s first trial in June 2017.
The defense team’s star witness was Marguerite “Margo” Jackson, a onetime Temple University colleague of Constand, who testified that she once had a discussion during which Constand told her she could fabricate a claim of sexual assault against a high-profile person to “get money.”
But prosecutors attacked Jackson’s credibility, implying two statements Jackson made about the alleged conversation with Constand were inconsistent and that her testimony could not be trusted.
In addition to calling Jackson as a witness, Mesereau and co-defense lawyers Kathleen Bliss and Becky James used travel and phone records of both Cosby and Constand to suggest that the alleged assault could not have occurred when Constand said it did.
After Constand reported the allegations in January 2005, an investigation began but in February 2005, then District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. declined to file charges against Cosby, maintaining there was insufficient evidence to do so.
Prosecutors reopened the investigation of Cosby in July 2015 after portions of Cosby’s deposition connected to the civil suit was unsealed by a judge. In that deposition, Cosby gave damaging testimony, admitting he obtained quaaludes to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex. Some of that deposition testimony was heard by the jury at trial.
The charges were lodged against Cosby on Dec. 30, 2015, before the 12-year statute of limitations to file charges expired.
In this file photo, Bill Cosby is seen arriving at the courthouse in Norristown for his preliminary hearing on sexual abuse charges.