Friday 21 September 2018

Cosby convicted of drugging woman and sex assault at his home in retrial

Bill Cosby leaves court after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial. Photo: Reuters
Bill Cosby leaves court after a jury convicted him in a sexual assault retrial. Photo: Reuters

David DeKok

Comedian Bill Cosby was convicted last night of drugging and sexually assaulting a onetime friend in 2004, marking the first celebrity conviction since the launch of the #MeToo movement.

Cosby (80), best known as the lovable father from the 1980s TV hit 'The Cosby Show', faces up to 10 years in prison for each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand (45) following a three-week trial at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

After weeks of maintaining decorum during the trial, Cosby exploded following the verdict when prosecutors asked the judge to take him into custody, saying he was a flight risk - in part because he owned a plane.

"He doesn't have a plane, you asshole!" Cosby responded in a booming voice as he leapt to his feet.

Cosby accusers (left to right) Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino react after Bill Cosby was found guilty on all counts in his sexual assault retrial at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Reuters
Cosby accusers (left to right) Caroline Heldman, Lili Bernard and Victoria Valentino react after Bill Cosby was found guilty on all counts in his sexual assault retrial at Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Reuters

Moments earlier, as the verdict was read, Cosby looked down with a sad expression.

Lili Bernard, one of his many accusers, began sobbing. Constand sat stone-faced.

Judge Steven O'Neill ruled Cosby could remain out of jail on $1m (€826,000) bail pending sentencing at a later date, as long as he surrendered his passport and remained at home.

Cosby then left the courthouse with his lawyers and publicist.

"The fight will go on," defence lawyer Thomas Mesereau told reporters, insisting on Cosby's innocence.

The conviction marks the downfall of a man once celebrated as 'America's Dad' but whose reputation was ruined after around 50 women accused him of similar offences going back decades.

Only one of those cases was recent enough to be eligible for prosecution, that of Constand, a former administrator for the women's basketball team at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 33 of the Cosby accusers, rejoiced that Cosby was found "guilty, guilty, guilty."

"We are so happy that finally we can say, women are believed, and not only on #MeToo, but in a court of law," she said.

Other Cosby accusers celebrated the verdict with hugs, cries, and applause.

"It's a victory not just for the 62 of us who have come forward but for all survivors of sexual assault, female and male," Bernard told reporters, using a high estimate of the number of Cosby's accusers. "I feel like my faith in humanity is restored."

The seven-man, five-woman jury reached a unanimous verdict after deliberating for 14 hours over two days.

Less than year ago, a different jury was deadlocked after six days of deliberations on the same charges, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors decided to retry him.

Soon after the first trial, a series of women levelled sexual assault and harassment accusations against men in media, entertainment and politics, giving rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that encouraged women to go public with personal stories of abuse, in some cases after years of silence.

Irish Independent

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