Wednesday 15 August 2018

Bill Cosby ‘confident he did nothing wrong’ after sexual assault conviction

Women’s advocates called the verdict a turning point in the #MeToo movement.

Bill Cosby gestures as he leaves the court (Matt Slocum/AP)
Bill Cosby gestures as he leaves the court (Matt Slocum/AP)

By By Michael R Sisak and Claudia Lauer

US TV star Bill Cosby maintains he is innocent, despite his conviction on Thursday for drugging and molesting a woman in 2004.

A spokesman said the 80-year-old was “feeling great” one day after the verdict and had been spending time with his wife of 54 years, Camille.

Andrew Wyatt told Good Morning America that Cosby is confident that he did nothing wrong and maintains his innocence.

The entertainer was known as “America’s Dad” after breaking down racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as the wisdom-dispensing Dr Cliff Huxtable in the Cosby Show in the 1980s.

But his downfall came after Temple University employee Andrea Constand said she was knocked out with three blue pills Cosby called “your friends” before sexually assaulting her while she lay immobilised.

He claimed the encounter was consensual, saying he gave her the cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to relax, but a jury convicted him of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Women’s advocates called the verdict a turning point in the #MeToo movement that proved what Cosby’s accusers had been saying all along: his nice-guy image was a sham.

Cosby waved to the crowd outside the courthouse, got into an SUV and left without saying anything. His lawyer Tom Mesereau declared “the fight is not over” and said he will appeal.

Ms Constand said in a Twitter post on Friday morning that “truth prevails”.

She posted a “very profound and heartfelt thank you” to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for its service and sacrifices. She followed by saying congratulations.

It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said Cosby drugged and molested them over five decades but whose stories were often disbelieved or ignored years before #MeToo put a spotlight on sexual misconduct by powerful men.

Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying a standard sentence of five to 10 years in prison. The counts are likely to be merged for sentencing purposes, but given Cosby’s age even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.

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Bill Cosby accusers, from left, Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino, right, react outside the courtroom (Mark Makela/Pool Photo via AP)

Sentencing will likely be held within three months. Before that, Cosby must face assessment to determine if he is a sexually violent predator. He will also be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law.

Lili Bernard, who said she was sexually assaulted before being given a one-time role on The Cosby Show, told NBC’s Today programme that she hopes the sentencing matches the severity of his crimes.

“Hopefully his sentencing will reflect the magnitude of the damage and havoc he has wreaked,” Ms Bernard said.

District Attorney Kevin Steele became teary-eyed as he commended Ms Constand for what he said was courage in coming forward.

As she stood silently behind him, Mr Steele apologised to her for a previous DA’s decision in 2005 not to charge Cosby.

He said Cosby “was a man who had evaded this moment for far too long,” adding: “He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes.

“Now, we really know today who was really behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was.”

Press Association

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