Bill Cosby begins years in jail for sex assault
BILL Cosby has been sentenced to three to ten years in state prison after a legal battle over sexual assault accusations that has stretched on for years.
"It is time for justice," said Judge Steven O'Neill, who also fined the entertainer $35,000.
"Mr Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come."
The former TV star was convicted on April 26 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault after drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in suburban Philadelphia in 2004.
Mr O'Neill quoted from Ms Constand's statement, saying Cosby took her "beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it."
The 81-year-old did not take his opportunity to speak in court, smiling and chatting with his defence team before he was taken away in handcuffs.
Wife Camille, who has stuck by Cosby throughout the accusations by 60 women, was not present.
Ms Constand smiled as she walked out of court.
Cosby was taken into custody immediately, rather than being permitted to remain under house arrest pending his expected appeal, as some had feared could happen.
The judge earlier declared Cosby a "sexually violent predator", meaning community notifications of his whereabouts, lifetime counselling and a deep stain on his reputation.
Yesterday, Ms Constand spoke briefly at Montgomery County Court in Norristown, Pennsylvania. "The jury heard me. Mr Cosby heard me. Now all I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit," she said.
In her full statement, released by prosecutors today, she described the horror of the sexual assault and its effects on her psyche.
"At the time of the assault, I was 30 years old, and a fit, confident athlete," she said.
"During the assault I was paralysed and completely helpless. I could not move my arms or legs. I couldn't speak or even remain conscious. I was completely vulnerable, and powerless to protect myself.
"After the assault, I wasn't sure what had actually happened but the pain spoke volumes. The shame was overwhelming. Self-doubt and confusion kept me from turning to my family or friends as I normally did. I felt completely alone."
'WHO HE IS BEHIND THE MASK'
The prosecution spoke of how being sexually assaulted was a "physically violating experience" and the "pain and anguish" that followed Ms Constand after the crime.
"Nobody is above the law," added District Attorney Kevin Steele, noting Cosby had failed to accept responsibility and showed "no remorse."
Mr Steele asked for a five- to ten-year sentence in a state facility to be imposed, as well as the maximum fine, plus court and sheriff's costs. "We ask this because of who he is behind the mask, behind the act that he perpetuated for all of the years he did and that he used to victimise."
But defence lawyer Joseph Green said "frenzied public opinion doesn't drive legal consequences" and said the legally blind entertainer was unlikely to reoffend at his age.
He asked the judge to consider how Cosby would fare behind bars at 81 years old. "How does he fight off the people who are trying to extort him?
"Mr Cosby is not dangerous, 81-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not dangerous - except perhaps to themselves."
Ms Constand's tearful mother Gianna read a heartbreaking victim impact statement.
She said learning of the attack on her daughter in 2004 was "a rollercoaster that never came to an end" and "became a nightmare" for her, too.
"Not only was I listening to Andrea's nightmare but I had my own battles," she said, describing how Cosby and his lawyers had destroyed the family's reputation. "I had some volatile communication with Bill Cosby that caused me to have physical ailments that still last.
"I sacrificed years of pension loss to take care of my mental health. I worry about my daughter, live in fear of her physical and mental state of mind and realise this event has contributed to so much pain and sadness in my life."
She said Cosby was right to have told her he was "a sick man", and he had "protected himself at the cost of ruining many lives."
Ms Constand's father Andrew said he felt such "sadness for my wife and daughter" that he had been unable to think and had to take pills to help him sleep - eventually doubling the dose.
Her sister Diane Parsons said her happy, energetic sibling was a changed person after the crime, "frail, nervous and weak". Ms Parson said she was "shocked" and felt "helpless" to assist her sister.
Cosby's spokesman Andrew Wyatt said the former Cosby Show star was "still America's Dad", as he walked into court on Monday afternoon, adding that the was "in great spirits" and had been told by his team to stay focused.
'SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR'
A crowd of protesters and Cosby supporters gathered outside court as the disgraced performer's sentencing began yesterday.
One protester pushed a Cosby mannequin on a trolley blowing bubbles, with signs on it reading "America's first #MeToo conviction" and attacking the statute of limitations, which prevented most of his 60 accusers from pressing charges.
The comedian pointed at the crowd as he walked in, but remained silent while his lawyers fought on his behalf - as he has largely done throughout his high profile trial, apart from one outburst.
That came when the prosecutor asked the judge to revoke his bail at an earlier hearing, claiming he was a flight risk and had a private plane. Cosby shouted: "He doesn't have a plane, you asshole!"
The hearing opened with a discussion of whether Cosby should be branded a "sexually violent predator.
"I came to the conclusion that Mr Cosby does in fact meet the criteria to be classified
Dr Kristen Dudley, a member of Pennsylvania's State Sexual Offenders Assessment Board. She cited the nature of Cosby's relationship with Ms Constand, who was an employee at Temple University, where he was a trustee.
"He used that friendship, that relationship, that trust to take advantage of her using drugs and alcohol and when she was rendered unconscious or sedated."
Dr Dudley said witness testimony from his two trials "creates a picture of Mr Cosby, who befriends women and during course of the relationship was supplying them with drugs or alcohol to sedate them" and violating them for the "sole purpose of his sexual gratification."
Testifying for the prosecution, the psychologist claimed Cosby had a mental abnormality, a "paraphilic disorder" in which he targeted "nonconsenting women."
Defence lawyer Mr Green argued that one factor in branding a "sexually violent predator" was the risk of re-offending - and that the literature shows that risk declines with age. He said the legally blind 81-year-old would have few opportunities to meet and victimise anyone else.
Mr Green also noted that the "paraphilic disorder" Dr Dudley applied to the former Cosby Show star had only become a possible diagnosis in the past few years.
SEMINAL #METOO MOMENT
The court was packed with the TV star's accusers, who embraced before the hearing began, in what marks the first sexual assault sentencing of a major celebrity in the #MeToo era.
They included former model Janice Dickinson and Lise-Lotte Lublin.
Cosby has been under house arrest after posting a $1 million bail. He is only able to leave his home with advance permission, for medical reasons or to meet lawyers.
The judge will also have to decide whether Cosby is permitted to remain free pending his probable appeal - but this is thought to be an unlikely result, since he has remained free for so long.
He lives with wife Camille, who has stuck with him throughout the accusations, saying there had only been "affairs", which the couple had resolved privately.
Ms Constand was the only victim to give evidence at his first trial, which ended in a mistrial with the jurors deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous decision.
At the retrial, five other accusers were also permitted to give evidence.
Today a PA court deemed #BillCosby a Violent Sexual Predator b4 sentencing him. For decades people maligned &decried his accusers as LIARS. It took 60+ accusers 2 finally bring his survivors justice &vindication. Have we learned nothing? #IBelieveDrFord #IBelieveDeborahRamirez— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) September 25, 2018