I never believed Bill Cosby.
It was not the horrific stories of more than 50 alleged victims. It was not because his team of high-priced lawyers helped him settle numerous civil actions out-of-court over the years. It was not because the entertainment juggernaut built his entire public persona on respectability politics, the notions that black people are culpable for racist attitudes that we experience. It was not even the grand irony that he admitted in sworn depositions released this summer to drugging and engaging in sex acts with a Temple University employee.
It’s what he did not say.
Cosby has refused to publicly answer specific allegations. Instead, consumed in controversy, he has used his considerable resources to castigate, malign, and attempt to silence his accusers. Through his attorneys, he has issued a blanket denial that he ever engaged in sexual misconduct and he has even sued many of his accusers, including supermodel Beverly Johnson, for defamation of character.
Cosby could have admitted to knowing the women, he could have confessed to enjoying sex, engaging in infidelity and using his celebrity as a lure. “Would they have slept with me otherwise?” he could have said, “I don’t know. But what I do know, for sure, is that we were consenting adults.”
He hasn’t said anything close to that.
In fact, Cosby has avoided addressing the issue in public. He wanted us to believe that this was a private matter. He has paid attorneys and public relations experts to salvage his reputation, in hopes that his celebrity and charitable largesse would save him from the firestorm of scrutiny—and from prison. The man who once reveled in the spotlight met the controversy with flashes of anger and resentment. At one point, he even challenged black media to “stay neutral.”
Until today, he has never been forced to answer any of the accusations and defend himself in an open criminal court. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania’s district attorney announced that Cosby has been charged with a single count of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, who says she was drugged and assaulted inside his home. The indictment came 17 days before the statute of limitations was set to run out.
In other words, Cosby almost got away with it.
Based on that deposition taken in 2005, released earlier this year by a federal court judge, prosecutors re-opened an investigation and found sufficient evidence to indict.
There are other alleged victims, DA Kevin Steele said, and “we are examining evidence” to determine whether additional charges will be filed “down the line.”
Following a case like this—as a black woman, a rape survivor, and as someone who grew up on Jell-O Pudding Pops, Fat Albert, and The Cosby Show—has been heartbreaking. Until today, I have avoided reading the details of specific incidences. I needed to protect myself emotionally, I reasoned. Until now, I have mostly addressed this case from the perspective of a cultural analyst with a dose of advocacy.
Even when I wrote a cover story for Ebony about the Cosby legacy, I wasn’t even sure I could discuss my feelings with my own mother. For so many in the black community, the revelations remain too painful to talk about and, for others, difficult to believe.
A lot is riding on the outcome of this case because it is the last criminal one open to prosecution. The remaining accusers—like many who say they have endured the horrors of sexual assault—may never see justice.