Wednesday 18 September 2019

'America's Dad' Cosby to hear if he will face jail

Bill Cosby (Matt Slocum/AP)
Bill Cosby (Matt Slocum/AP)

David DeKok

Bill Cosby's downfall from 'America's Dad' to convicted felon reached its final chapter in a Pennsylvania courtroom yesterday, as a judge began deciding whether to sentence the 81-year-old comedian to prison for sexual assault.

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, who once had a family friendly reputation thanks to the 1980s television comedy 'The Cosby Show', was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. More than 50 other women have also accused him of sexual abuse going back decades.

Cosby arrived at the courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, walking with a cane and holding the arm of his spokesman Andrew Wyatt. A number of accusers, including model Janice Dickinson, were on hand for the sentencing hearing, which is expected to last two days.

Cosby faces up to 10 years on each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, although it is unlikely Montgomery County Court Judge Steven O'Neill would go as high as 30 years, according to Steven Chanenson, a law professor at Villanova University in the US.

State sentencing guidelines, which are not mandatory, recommend a sentence between two and four years, Mr Chanenson said.

Judge O'Neill heard arguments yesterday on whether to formally deem Cosby a "sexually violent predator" under state law. If so, Cosby will have to undergo monthly counselling and register as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life, rather than for just 10 years.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a lengthy sentence, citing the nature of Cosby's crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct. Defence lawyers will likely point to Cosby's age, frailty and failing vision.

Cosby's first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a verdict. The judge allowed prosecutors to call five other accusers as witnesses in Cosby's second trial over the objections of his defence team, bolstering Constand's account. All of the women told stories that were markedly similar to Ms Constand's: Cosby would offer to be their mentor before plying them with alcohol and drugs and sexually assaulting them.

Irish Independent

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