Almost three years after Bill Cosby was first arrested for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand and six months after he was found guilty in a retrial, the once beloved actor arrived today at a Pennsylvania courtroom to face a sentencing hearing that will determine whether he is to be designated a violent sexual predator and if he’s going behind bars for what could be the rest of his life.
“Judgment day has finally arrived for this convicted sexual predator who betrayed the trust of so many women,” says attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several women claiming assault by Cosby over the past 50 years.
“It is time for him to face the consequences of his criminal acts and stop denying what a unanimous jury found after careful and thoughtful deliberation,” added the LA-based lawyer, who will be in the Norristown, PA courtroom for the expected two-day proceedings that could see the 81-year-old Cosby led away in handcuffs to begin serving his time immediately.
While pre-sentencing filings by the prosecution and the defense have been kept under wraps, the Montgomery County District Attorney is presumed to be asking Judge Steven O’Neill to subject Cosby to the maximum 30 years from his conviction this spring on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. Once again under attack from Cosby’s latest defense team as “impartial” and having recently rejected its motion to recuse himself, O’Neill has a fair degree of discretion both under and above the Keystone State’s sentencing guidelines of 22 months to three years for each charge.
In a very different environment from when Cosby put up $1 million bail in December 2015, this week’s hearing is taking place almost a year after the New York Times’ exposé detailing decades of alleged sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein turned a still-bright spotlight on Hollywood’s vile underbelly. In this #MeToo and Time’s Up year, Cosby’s days of decision are paralleling a politically paralyzed Washington D.C. as Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination takes on more water as more sexual misconduct accusations emerge against President’s Donald Trump’s High Court pick.
“Mr. Cosby is the first A-list celebrity convicted in the #MeToo era after a trial of felony assaults against a woman,” Allred told Deadline on Monday. “There is a power shift and at least in this case a woman who was a victim of a celebrity was believed when the court allowed other accusers to testify to prior bad acts. This is very encouraging to many victims of sexual assault by rich, powerful famous men,” the longtime advocate noted. “Now we await the sentence to learn if the punishment will fit the crime.”
Although Constand will give a victim’s statement today or Tuesday, at this point it is unclear whether the currently under-house-arrest Cosby will break from the 2017 mistrial and the retrial and finally speak in his own defense. Already indicating he will appeal this week’s sentence if it goes against his client, lawyer Joseph Green is expected to use the legally blind Cosby’s weakened health and age as reasons to keep him out of state prison.
It’s an argument that may not persuade O’Neill as there are presently more 85 inmates in the Pennsylvania prison system who are over 80 years old, according to the state’s Department of Corrections, with more than a few of them in poorer health than the man once known as “America’s Dad.”
Facing a courtroom packed with former Temple University employee Constand, other accusers and media, the first order of business this morning will likely be addressing and possibly affirming the violent sexual predator designation. This summer, Pennsylvania’s sex offender board conducted an examination of Cosby and decided he possesses a personality disorder that makes him prone to criminal behavior.
While Cosby’s lawyers are fighting the constitutionality of the violent sexual predator label, they also certainly plan to appeal if the potential designation is stuck on the actor. The permanent designation and appeal will have ramifications beyond this criminal case, which is the only one of its type the much-accused Cosby Show creator has faced.
Besides the obvious restrictions it would entail for the actor, being formally cited as a violent sexual predator could create significant shifts in the various civil cases Cosby is fighting, like that from former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson. The once supermodel also was one of five alleged Cosby victims who took the stand in the retrial eaier this year as examples presented by the Montgomery County D.A. of prior “bad acts” on the actor’s part. Dickinson may return with others in that group of five to make a statement in the sentencing hearing.
Earlier this month, D.A. Kevin Steele sought to have a series of the more than 60 women who have claimed Cosby assaulted them speak at this week’s hearing. O’Neill denied that motion on September 20. Still, at least one alleged victim has something to say, even if it is outside the court.
“I pray it’s 30 years, he deserves every year,” Cosby accuser Chelan Lasha said Sunday of Cosby’s possible imprisonment. “What’s 30 years compared to the decades of pain he has put on so many women? And there are many more, I know that.” A client of Allred’s and expected in the courtroom today as well, Lasha was one of five women besides Constand who testified at the retrial this year.
Due to the fact that Pennsylvania has a longer statute of limitations on sex crimes than most states, Cosby was pulled into court on criminal charges in late 2015.
Despite admitting in depositions more than a decade ago to giving Constand Benadryl pills on the night of the alleged assault in his Philadelphia-area mansion more than a decade ago, Cosby has unsuccessfully insisted through various investigations and two trials that the encounter with the ex-Temple University employee was consensual.
This week he will discover what the consequences will be.