A jury found Bill Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault on Thursday, for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in a Philadelphia suburb in 2004.
The 80-year-old comedian faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, but Cosby is likely to serve them concurrently. A sentencing hearing with Judge Steven O’Neill has not yet been scheduled, and Cosby remains out on bail. Cosby did not audibly react to his conviction, but erupted shortly afterward. Minutes after the verdict, prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Cosby’s bail. They said he is a flight risk and has a private plane.
Cosby, who did not testify in the trial and has sat quietly through the proceedings, stood up and yelled in a booming voice: “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”
Judge O’Neill ruled that Cosby should not leave his home. Since Cosby has homes in multiple states, the judge noted that if he does arrange with the appropriate offices to stay in a home in another state he must first be fitted with a GPS tracking device before leaving.
The verdict came a year after Cosby’s previous trial ended in a mistrial, as a different panel of jurors said they were deadlocked and could not unanimously agree on a verdict. This jury began deliberating Wednesday around 11 a.m., and worked for more than 14 hours over two days to reach the verdict.
At the retrial, five other Cosby accusers testified as “prior bad acts” witnesses and said that Cosby had drugged and assaulted them decades ago.
It was the first celebrity sexual assault trial since the #MeToo movement began last fall, and many saw it as a test of whether the cultural shift the movement has brought about would translate in court.
“What was revealed through this investigation was a man who had spent decades preying on women that he drugged and sexually assaulted, and a man who evaded this moment right here far too long,”
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele told reporters. “He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes.”
Cosby’s attorney, Tom Mesereau, said he plans to appeal “very strongly.”
“We are very disappointed by the verdict. We don’t think Mr. Cosby’s guilty of anything and the fight is not over,” he said.
What the case was about
The case against Cosby centered on testimony from Constand, a former employee with Temple University women’s basketball team. She testified that Cosby, a powerful trustee at Temple, drugged her and sexually assaulted her when she visited his home to ask for career advice 14 years ago.
The trial had the “he said, she said” dynamic that is common to sexual assault trials. Prosecutors had little forensic evidence and relied on the testimony of Constand. In addition, five other women testified that Cosby had drugged and then assaulted them decades ago as prosecutors sought to prove Cosby’s actions toward Constand were part of a pattern.
Cosby’s defense team launched aggressive attacks on Constand’s credibility and said that their sexual interaction was consensual. Constand was a “con artist,” they argued, who wanted a piece of Cosby’s fortune.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Kathleen Bliss positioned Cosby’s legal team as standing up against “witch hunts, lynchings (and) McCarthyism.”
After the trial concluded, Constand left through a side door in the courtroom, walking into a hallway with her arms around two women and a huge smile on her face.
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents many of the women who have accused Cosby of misconduct, said this was the happiest she had been with a verdict in 42 years.
“We are so happy that finally we can say, women are believed. And not only on #MeToo but in a court of law where they are under oath, where they testified truthfully, where they are attacked,” Allred said. “After all is said and done, women were finally believed.”
Universities revoke Cosby’s honorary degrees after verdict
Hours after the verdict, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania announced it was revoking the honorary degree it awarded Cosby in 2007.
“Carnegie Mellon University has long had a clear and unwavering commitment: The university will not tolerate sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking or sexual harassment. These acts are against the law and violate our core values,” the university said in a statement.
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana also said it was rescinding the honorary degree it awarded Cosby in 1990.
“While certainly troubled by serious, public accusations made by multiple women against him, the University elected to wait until due process had been afforded the accused, and a verdict delivered, before rescinding the honor,” the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university president said in a statement.
But Temple University, which Cosby attended and where he once held a position on the board of trustees, said the verdict “provides additional facts for the University to consider with respect to Bill Cosby’s honorary degree.” The university said it “respects” the jury’s decision.
In 2014, Cosby resigned from Temple’s board of trustees after holding a seat for 32 years.[source: CNN]