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Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison for 2004 sex assault

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after his first day of sentencing hearings in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after his first day of sentencing hearings in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for his 2004 assault on Andrea Constand, capping a three-year courtroom battle that could force him to spend the final stage of his life behind bars labeled as a sexually violent predator.

“It is time for justice in a court of law,” Judge Steven T. O’Neill said, ending a two-day hearing. “The day has come. The time has come.”

The 81-year-old entertainer showed little reaction as the sentence was announced in a packed Norristown courtroom, casting his eyes down at the defense table.

District Attorney Kevin R. Steele had urged the judge to lock Cosby up for the maximum 10-year term, while defense lawyers cited their client’s blindness, advanced age and declining health in a bid for house arrest. They also sought bail for Cosby while he appeals, a request O’Neill denied.

“I’m not going to treat him any differently than anyone who comes in here,” the judge said, even as the lawyers continued to argue the issue. “There are people in jails all over the state who think they should have bail while they appeal.”

The judge also ordered Cosby to pay a $25,000 fine and repay the cost of his prosecution. And though Tuesday’s hearing capped a prolonged legal battle that included a stream of hearings, appeals and two trials, the significance of the moment hung over the proceedings.

With his sentencing, Cosby becomes the first male celebrity or power broker of the MeToo era sent to prison for decades-old sexual misconduct that in years past might have been swept under the rug or ignored. His punishment also cemented his dramatic transformation from a comedic icon revered as a trailblazer for other black entertainers to a Hollywood pariah brought down by his own sense of sexual privilege.

The sentence came five months after a county jury convicted Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault — all tied to the night 14 years ago when he drugged and sexually assaulted Constand at his Cheltenham mansion. It was conduct that both prosecutors — and, ultimately, dozens of other accusers — said followed a pattern.

For decades, the married star sought out sexual encounters with young women — many of them aspiring models and actresses — whom he had offered to mentor. Six of them testified against him at trial, telling jurors that that those friendly overtures served only as a pretext to lure them into private meetings where Cosby drugged and assaulted them.

Constand’s relationship with comedian, which began while she was operations manager for Temple University’s women’s basketball team in the early 2000s, played out under similar circumstances.

In her own victim impact statement to the judge, Constand described how the assault, her first attempt to bring charges in 2005, and the ensuing “psychological, emotional and financial bullying” changed her life.

“We may never know the extent of his double life as a sexual predator,” she wrote, “but his decadeslong reign of terror as a serial rapist is over.”

As the sentence was announced Tuesday, she remained calm. Other accusers in the courtroom patted her on the shoulder.

Cosby has vehemently denied ever assaulting her or any woman. Throughout the proceedings, he and his defense team signaled that regardless of the sentencing his fight to clear his name is far from over.

His lawyers are expected to quickly appeal the conviction.

Meanwhile, Cosby’s wife, Camille, announced last week that she had filed a complaint with Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board and hired a Harrisburg lawyer to investigate allegations she has lodged that O’Neill exhibited bias against her husband throughout his two trials.

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Neither she nor any other relatives attended Tuesday’s hearings. The two rows reserved for his family and supporters were nearly empty.

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