Having filed motion after motion during the past three years to halt or stop the rape case against the now-convicted Bill Cosby, his lawyers today made a last-ditch sleight-of-hand that could knock the two-day sentencing hearing off the rails right after it started and keep him from potentially going behind bars this week.
Throwing another spanner into the multi-trial matter, the defense suddenly stated this morning that it wished to hear from the doctor who compiled the original report that Pennsylvania’s sex offender board relied on in part for its estimation that Cosby should be designated a sexually violent predator. That Dr. Timothy Foley apparently is unavailable until Tuesday morning at the earliest, which stalled a ruling by Judge Steven O’Neill on the SVP and, under Keystone State law, consequently hits the pause button on the actual sentencing.
Noting that this tactic was “clearly delaying this,” the somewhat-annoyed judge recommended that defense attorney Joseph Green see if there is “any chance” that they can get their witness in front of him ASAP. O’Neill said that while he can’t make a ruling on sentencing before the SVP determination — the acronym both sides employed Monday — testimony in sentencing and other arguments will take up the afternoon.
Earlier in a day that seemed to be chugging along as a member of the state sex offender board took to the stand to testify on why Cosby should be labeled as a sexually violent predator.
“Mr. Cosby does, in fact, meet the criteria to be registered as a sex offender,” psychologist Dr. Kristin Dudley told the court today at the start of the comic actor’s sentencing hearing in suburban Philadelphia. Found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault in April by a jury in a retrial for the 2004 rape of Andrea Constand, the innocence-proclaiming 81-year old Cosby potentially faces a maximum of up to 30 years in prison.
A permanent designation as a sexually violent predator would be/is another damning demarcation in the once-highly esteemed actor’s destroyed reputation. Swinging early Monday in an attempt to save his client from the SVP label defense lawyer Green found himself getting some pushback from O’Neill — who recently ruled against a motion by Cosby’s attorneys to essentially exit the case — and Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
“Mr. Cosby decided not to participate in this assessment,” the member of the state’s sexual offender designation board and author of this summer’s formal assessment of the actor added under oath, with Cosby and Constand sitting just a few feet away from her and each other.
Using a 14-point determination method, Dudley and the Pennsylvania board decided that the “unusual cruelty” enacting Cosby “likely” possesses a personality disorder that makes him prone to predatory behavior and re-offense among other things. In the case of the then-29-year-old Constand, Cosby in 2003 and 2004 systematically developed a mentor-like relationship with his victim before later pushing drugs and drink on her that rendered the then-Temple University employee incapacitated and easy to overpower.
Many of the more than 60 women who also have claimed that Cosby assaulted them over the decades relayed a similar use of pills and alcohol by the actor. Unlike many of those women, some of whom were in the court this morning, Cosby paid Constand millions in a once-confidential settlement about a decade before this criminal case was opened in late 2015.
“There have been no new allegations in the past 14 years that I am aware of,” Dudley methodically told the courtroom under pointed questioning from the defense that sought to shake her assessment with conflicting psychiatric disorder definitions.
The sexually violent predator testimony came soon after O’Neill on Monday quickly denied a motion by the defense challenging the constitutionally of the state sex offender statute. Detailing the sex offender report filed by the state in mid-July and the constitutional arguments that Cosby’s defense team has launched subsequently, a subdued O’Neill began Day 1 of the pivotal sentencing hearing by focusing on the sexually violent predator label that a state board recommended this summer should be stamped on the much accused actor.
A recommendation that prosecutors strongly backed and sought to pierce the defense’s statute challenges and other objections.
“It doesn’t take away his freedom and his movements … he just has to notify the state police,” argued a Montgomery County Deputy D.A. this morning, pointing out in court the statistical findings that such high-risk offenders as Cosby commonly re-offend if not formally registered as an SVP.
“The purpose of these laws is not to shame offenders,” the prosecutor noted, “it is to protect citizens and their children.”
Holding on to his primary PR representative Andrew Wyatt and clutching a cane, The Cosby Show creator dramatically came into the dark wood-lined courtroom straight down the center aisle just after 9 AM ET. Although he had a bevy of attorneys sitting at the table with him, the man once praised as “America’s Dad” noticeably was not accompanied by his wife of 54 years, Camille, who is seeking to have O’Neill investigated by the state for “misconduct” in the trials. Other Cosby family members or former co-stars also were not with the actor today, as they had been in previous proceedings.
Constand, on the other hand — her hair significantly cropped since the mistrial of last year and the retrial of this spring — came into the courtroom just beforehand through a side door with family members and supporters in tow.
With a banker’s box of documents from the case in front of him, O’Neill took the bench around 9:20 AM ET. With an overflow room down the hall, the wooden pews of the grand courtroom also were packed today with lawyers, a number of alleged Cosby victims, their supporters and members of the media. The Norristown courtroom is the same one where both the 2017 mistrial and the retrial took place, though today there wasn’t a jury in attendance with Constand and Cosby.
Although the statute of limitations for sex crimes in most states was a decade at most until recently, Pennsylvania has a much longer time period. That’s why Cosby could be pulled into court on criminal charges in late 2015, nearly 12 years after the incident in question.
Even as he has admitted in depositions more than 10 years ago to giving Constand several Benadryl pills on the night of the alleged assault in his Philadelphia-area mansion back in 2004, Cosby has insisted unsuccessfully through various investigations and two trials that the encounter with her was consensual.
Likely seeing the 100% certain-to-appeal actor taken directly to incarceration, the decision on Cosby’s sentence was expected today or Tuesday. Whether that happens now is uncertain, to say the least.