Judge to sentence Bill Cosby for sexual assault, capping his downfall

Cosby, who was found guilty in April, is the first celebrity to be convicted since the start of the #MeToo movement.

Bill Cosby. Picture: Facebook.com

NORRISTOWN - Bill Cosby will learn on Tuesday whether he will go to prison for sexual assault as a sentencing hearing in a Pennsylvania courtroom concludes, capping the comedian’s downfall from America’s Dad to disgraced felon.

Cosby, who was found guilty in April, is the first celebrity to be convicted since the start of the #MeToo movement, the national reckoning with sexual misconduct that has brought down dozens of powerful men in entertainment, politics and other fields.

Cosby (81) cemented his family-friendly reputation playing the mischievous but lovable Dr. Cliff Huxtable in the 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show.

That has since been eclipsed by his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, in his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. More than 50 other women also have accused him of sexual abuse going back decades, with most too old to prosecute. The Constand case is the only allegation that has resulted in a conviction.

Constand spoke briefly on the first day of the hearing on Monday.

“Your honour, I have testified,” Constand said. “I have given you my victim impact statement. The jury heard me. Mr Cosby heard me. All I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill said he must first rule on whether to designate Cosby a “sexually violent predator” under state law. On Monday, he heard from a state-appointed psychologist who said the designation was necessary because there was a risk of Cosby committing another offence.

Citing Cosby’s frailty and blindness, Cosby’s lawyers opposed the label, which would carry more onerous reporting requirements, including monthly counselling and registration as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum prison sentence of between five and 10 years, citing the nature of Cosby’s crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct. They also asked the judge to levy a $25,000 fine on Cosby and make him pay court costs. If ever he came up for parole, prosecutors want him to submit to a “psycho-sexual evaluation” that he had refused prior to sentencing.

Cosby’s lawyers asked for house arrest rather than prison time, arguing that imprisonment was overly punitive given his age.

Cosby’s first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Soon after that proceeding, a series of women began levelling sexual misconduct allegations against influential men, launching the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences.