During the Bill Cosby trial, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele referenced Cliff Huxtable and the TV character everyone thought they knew. Then he told them about the person he considered the real Cosby, the sexual predator who would do anything to keep his crimes hidden from public view.
Finally, after two trials and numerous hearings, Steele could enjoy knowing he had proven that claim.
“I think everybody got to see who he really is,” he said after the verdict, “when each of those…victims testified.”
The aftermath of the Bill Cosby retrial this afternoon outside the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA, was a mixture of condemnation against Cosby, relief for accusers and hope for what the guilty verdict may do for other women who’ve experienced sexual assault.
Steele, surrounded by fellow attorneys and Constand, teared up at times while talking about the victims and his fellow prosecutors M. Stewart Ryan and Kristen Feden. He maintained a strict demeanor when talking about Cosby, saying he plans to challenge Judge Steven O’Neill’s ruling to let him free on bail until sentencing. He also wants Cosby to pay for the prosecution’s legal costs for this trial and last year’s mistrial.
“I will be relying on defense counsel’s opening remarks in this when he was talking about $3.38 million being a paltry sum or simply a nuisance,” Steele said. “So clearly the cost of prosecution in this manner should not be a problem for the defendant.”
Cosby was declared guilty on three charges of the January 2004 drugging and sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee. Accuser Lili Bernard couldn’t contain herself in the moment. She’d been in the courtroom for almost every minute of the trial and when the jury announced guilty for the first charge she shrieked. Bernard left the courtroom crying in joy.
“It is not just a victory for the 62 of us publicly-known Cosby survivors,” she said. “It is also a victory for womanhood, and it is a victory for all sexual assault survivors.”
Women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred had wondered before the trial whether the progress from #MeToo would extend to the Cosby case. She said the verdict was the most satisfying she’d seen in 42 years of practice.
“Finally I can say women are believed and not only on #MeToo, but in a court of law,” Allred said.
The guilty verdict could resound in ways outside the movement for increased sexual awareness, too. Legal analysts suggest the use of the deposition from the Cosby-Constand civil settlement might overturn gag rulings in civil proceedings. The availability of the five accusers to testify, known as prior bad act witnesses, was also unusual for a criminal case.
Around Allred, Bernard and other accusers outside the courthouse, dozens of spectators had gathered. The most vocal appeared to be supporters of Cosby. As he walked with his attorneys to a waiting SUV, some of them cheered “free Bill Cosby.” Another shouted, “I hope the DA chokes on a pudding pop.” He raised his cane in approval.
Lisa Bruce, 36, drove from nearby King of Prussia to the courthouse upon hearing the guilty verdict. She wanted to “say goodbye to America’s father.” She fears he will die in prison.
“He doesn’t need this,” Bruce said. “He can’t even see. Where’s the justice system?”
Cosby’s team vowed to fight on appeal, with attorney Tom Mesereau saying he was “very disappointed with the verdict.” Steele said he would be ready. He pointed to his staff of attorneys and said he’d put them up against anybody.
The bad blood between Cosby’s defense team and the prosecutors was apparent throughout the trial, with each side accusing the other of unethical behavior. Steele reflected on the accusations made by Bliss against the accusers in her closing argument as the worst he’d ever heard.
“It was very difficult to sit through and watch,” he said. “But you also saw what the jury did in the end. And I hope that people recognize you gotta show courage like this lady.”
Steele pointed to Constand, his voice breaking up with emotion. She had been standing next to him, refusing comment and displaying the calm demeanor she had on the stand.
“She showed courage,” Steele said. “She stepped up. She went through it and we got the right result.”