Cosby con­victed of sex as­sault, sent to prison

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler @21st-cen­tu­ry­ @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

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.

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