Bill Cosby Sentenced to 3-10 Years in Prison for Sexual Assault of Andrea Constand
The 81-year-old comedian was handcuffed and immediately ordered to go behind bars by a judge who declared, ‘It is time for justice. The time has come.’
NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania—Bill Cosby was sentenced to several years in prison on Tuesday for sexually assaulting a woman over a decade ago.
Judge Steven O’Neill gave Cosby, 81, a sentence of between three and 10 years in prison for attacking Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand is one of more than 60 women who have accused the previously beloved comedian of preying on them over the past five decades.
“It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come,” O’Neill said.
Cosby was denied bail and remanded to state custody for transfer to prison. Cosby took his suit jacket off and rolled up the sleeves of his white dress shirt. Minutes later, he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs, with sheriff’s deputies on either side.
Constand and five other women who testified against Cosby during his April trial are scheduled to speak at a press conference later this afternoon. On Monday, Constand gave a victim impact statement to the court where she said Cosby “took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it.”
Prosecutors asked for five to ten years in prison for Cosby, while Cosby’s attorney asked he be placed under house arrest. Before sentencing Cosby, Judge O’Neill designated him a “sexually violent predator,” which requires lifetime registration as a sex offender and counseling.
O’Neill spoke for nearly 20 minutes before imposing his sentence on the man once called “America’s Dad.”
“You’re convicted of a very serious crime,” he said. “The evidence is overwhelming that it was planned predation. Your own words indicated you had no verbal consent. You claimed her silence was consent. That is not the law. The jury found she was silent because of the intoxicant you gave her.”
O’Neill said he put a “high degree of weight” on the victim impact statements of Constand and her family in sentencing Cosby.
“As she said, ‘Mr. Cosby, you took a beautiful healthy young spirit and you crushed it,’” O’Neill said, looking at Constand. “I don’t know whether the defendant read your statement. I did. I heard the very clear impact in your voice.”
O’Neill said he re-read the testimony of the five other accusing witnesses but was cognizant they did not testify as victims because Cosby was not charged crimes against them.
“I heard your voices loud and clear,” he said.
Cosby’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the verdict. Meanwhile, Cosby’s personal publicist continued his streak of outlandish statements, calling the trial part of a “sex war” and likening his client to Jesus Christ.
Cosby’s sentencing capped a nearly 14-year journey that began when Constand first went to police in January 2005 saying the comedian had drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania mansion the previous January. The Montgomery County district attorney at the time declined to prosecute Cosby, saying there was insufficient evidence. Constand then filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby and he settled her claim out of court in 2006 by paying more than $3 million.
The allegations against Cosby were thrown back into the public eye in October 2014 when comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a stand-up act. Months later, a federal judge unsealed Cosby’s deposition in the civil lawsuit, declaring that Cosby “voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy” when he “donned the mantle of public moralist” on issues like race.
That’s when it was revealed that Cosby said he had given Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with. The deposition was used as evidence to arrest Cosby on suspicion of aggravated indecent assault on December 30, 2015—just a month shy of the statute of limitations expiring.
Prosecuting Cosby was practically a campaign promise of Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who successfully unseated D.A. Bruce Castor in 2015 over not charging Cosby a decade prior.
Steele claimed victory in a press conference after Cosby was hauled away.
“Dr. Cliff Huxtable was a seminal character on TV and so was the family. But it is fiction,” Steele said. “Before Bill Cosby was taken away in handcuffs a lot of people believed that’s who he was. But we know otherwise.”
Cosby’s first trial in June 2017 ended with a hung jury, which deadlocked after 52 hours of deliberations, forcing Judge O’Neill to declare a mistrial. Months later, the #MeToo movement exploded and saw countless powerful men toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct. A retrial ended in conviction on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault on April 26.
The prosecution adopted a different strategy for the retrial, starting with a forensic psychiatrist and sexual-assault expert who explained often puzzling victim behavior and tried to dispel various “rape myths.” Dr. Barbara Ziv testified how how a victim’s memory can be impaired by drugs or trauma. Ziv said sexual assaults are routinely under-reported to authorities and, when they are, the reports are often delayed.
Ziv’s testimony laid the foundation for Constand and five other women to testify about how they were victimized by Cosby: Heidi Thomas, Janice Baker-Kinney, Chelan Lasha, Janice Dickinson, and Lise Lotte-Lublin.
The women’s stories shared chilling similarities: Cosby approached them to become their mentors, gained their trust, then drugged and sexually assaulted them when he had them in an environment he controlled.
None of them reported the assaults to police, while Constand waited a year before going to authorities.
Lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau was openly skeptical of the testimony of the accusers he cross-examined, even rolling his eyes while Baker-Kinney responded to one of his questions.
Mesereau was equally skeptical of Constand, seeking to portray her as a greedy con artist who made up drugging and sexual assault offenses against Cosby so she could get money from him. Mesereau claimed she got what she wanted with the $3 million settlement from Cosby.
But Constand testified she was in court only to seek justice. And she said she finally went to the police a year after the incident for one reason: “I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else, what had happened to me.”
Judge O’Neil delivered Cosby’s sentence after designating Cosby a “sexually violent predator” following the testimony of experts for the prosecution and the defense. O’Neill asked Cosby if he wished to respond.
“No,” Cosby replied firmly. “I don’t need anymore discussion on that.”
On Monday, psychologist Kristen Dudley testified for the D.A’s office, saying Cosby has a paraphilic sexual disorder involving non-consenting women and would likely strike again if given the opportunity. Cosby refused to be evaluated by her, Dudley said, so she based her determination on trial transcripts and police records.
Joseph Greene Jr., one of Cosby’s new defense attorneys, argued Cosby is too old to reoffend and had another psychological expert, Dr. Timothy Foley, testify on his behalf Tuesday morning. Foley, a forensic psychologist, said he spent three hours with the comedian in July and believes his risk to reoffend is “extraordinarily low” then listed why he believes that. “Because he’s 81 years old,” he testified. “He’s been convicted of a sex offense. Sex offense recidivism declines as you age and after 70 it becomes virtually negligible. Because of no known sexual misconduct for the last 15 years. For all of those reasons.”
He also concluded Cosby does not have any sort of paraphilic disorder, based on questions he asked Cosby.
However, he admitted he did not ask Cosby about drugging and sexually assaulting Constand nor did he consult the trial transcripts or take into account any of the accusations by other women in his evaluation.