Looking at a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars for the 2004 rape of a former Temple University employee, Bill Cosby today was formally designated as a sexually violent predator.
With ramifications also for the various civil cases that the once beloved actor is fighting with some of the over 60 women who have accused him of drugging and assaulting them over the decades, the lifetime registering of Cosby as a sex offender with the significant additional restrictions of the SVP label. Among the stipulations, Cosby will now be required to register and check in with Pennsylvania state police monthly. If he is sentenced to time behind bars later today by Judge Steven O’Neill, Cosby will be required to attend counseling and provide all details of any change in residence, once he is released.
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“If I went from a city to another city, even if it is only overnight, do I have to get in touch with the state police?” Cosby asked a Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney when the specifics of the SVP designation were read out to him, hinting at a possible standup tour in the future.
Noting he believed that to be the case, the Deputy D.A. advised the actor to nonetheless further seek that answer via his own lawyers, as it was not clear to him from the statute. At a later junction, Cosby also seemed confused when he was told that victim Andrea Constand will be notified of his movements by law enforcement under his SVP status.
In April, a jury in a retrial found the now 81-year old Cosby guilty in the Keystone State criminal case on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Constand. Each count carries a potential sentence of a decade but yesterday it was revealed that both the Montgomery County D.A.’s office and the defense agreed all the counts should be collapsed into one because they occurred on the same day.
While prosecutors on Monday publicly pushed for a sentence at the “high end” of 10 years, Judge O’Neill indicated the state guidelines of 22 to 36 months, give or take 12 months, would serve as his North Star. The sentencing is scheduled to occur at 1:30 PM ET, Judge O’Neill said.
Though nothing is ever set in stone in these matters until the judge makes his final ruling, in what seems certain to be Cosby’s last day of freedom, at least for the immediate future, the much-accused actor announced that he will not take the opportunity to speak significantly before his sentencing is handed down.
Traditionally, defendants are given the floor to see if they have anything to say. Besides the odd and expletive outburst from the defense table, the currently under house arrest and out on $1 million bail Cosby was essential silent in his own defense in both the mistrial of 2017 and the retrial of earlier this year.
Besides his question to the Deputy D.A. this morning, Cosby otherwise mainly responded Yes or No to a series of procedural questions from the judge. Also he added in a rather weak voice at first that he didn’t need any more time to decide if he wanted to speak at any length in court. Seated at the defense table at the front of the courtroom, The Cosby Show creator at one point additionally asked the Deputy D.A. to speak up when given a series of questions of requirements of understanding his case and the SVP status.
Judge O’Neill has said now that the SVP issue has been dealt with and lawyers for both sides have had once last turn addressing the court, the sentencing of the octogenarian first offender will come this afternoon.
According to sources, if sentenced to incarceration, Cosby will be handcuffed in the courtroom and led out by Montgomery County officers.
The man once widely called “America’s Dad” will then be taken to the lower part of the courthouse for some paperwork and transported to a facility, likely a nearby state prison, forthwith. As the District Attorney and other interested parties head to the microphones, Cosby’s lawyers will be moving fast to file an appeal. An appeal that more than likely will go to the Keystone State’s Supreme Court. As that appeal process progresses, Cosby will probably remain behind bars, if, as expected, he is sentenced to prison later today.
As a steady rain came down outside the Norristown, PA court, the proceedings inside started a bit later than usual with Judge Steven O’Neill not taking his seat until 9:30 AM ET. Like yesterday both Constand and Cosby were in the courtroom, with the latter almost immediately engaged in close conversation with his appeal lawyer and others at the defense table upfront.
Interestingly, Cosby’s primary attorney Joseph Green did not sit with his client but off to the side of the room. Though attacking Judge O’Neill with claims of misconduct earlier this month before a state judicial board, Camille Cosby again did not appear with her husband today, as did not a single member of the actor’s family nor his old co-stars.
The day formally began by going back to the sexually violent predator designation that was derailed on Monday when a supposedly key witness for the defense was said to be unavailable. After a short return for questioning by Dr. Kristin Dudley, a psychologist who serves on the state board that recommended Cosby be labeled a SVP, that previously missing witness Dr. Timothy Foley took the stand.
Detailing his multi-state background in accessing sex offenders, the forensic psychologist told Green that he believed Cosby was “extremely low risk” for recidivism due to his declining health and age. Having interviewed Cosby and then contributed to the initial report that the state board used in eventually deciding that the potentially personality disorder afflicted Cosby should be registered as sexually violent predator, with all the responsibilities and restrictions that entails, the low key Foley was ultimately an anti-climatic if not harmful witness for the defense.
Pressed by prosecutors, Foley admitted the extremely limited scope of his face-to-face interview of Cosby and his reliance on the actor’s personal word.
Subscribing to a notion that Cosby should get home arrest at most, Foley put particular emphasis on the limitations of self-sufficiency that the legally blind actor could have in prison. Yet, the “full remission” insisting defense was knocked down a further a notch or three, when Foley had to say that he actually has “no expertise” in accessing psychical limitations.
On the stand for less than an hour, Dr. Foley also revealed an ignorance of statements made in court by other alleged victims of Cosby, as well as of a state prison that is primarily set up for older inmates with health issues. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections there are around 90 prisoners in the system that are over 80 years old, a number of them in worst shape than Bill Cosby.
Though the statute of limitations in most states for sex crimes was set at a decade at most until recently, Pennsylvania has long had a much longer time period for such offences. It was the length of that specific statute that allowed the D.A. to pull Cosby into court on criminal charges in late 2015, almost 12 years after the assault of Constand occurred.
Even though he has admitted in a decade old depositions to giving Constand several Benadryl pills on the night of the alleged assault in his Philadelphia-area mansion back in 2004, Cosby has unsuccessfully insisted through various investigations and two trials that the encounter with the ex-Temple University employee was totally consensual.
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