Led away in handcuffs, Bill Cosby will serve 3 to 10 years in prison for sexual assault



Bill Cosby is taken to jail to be processed after being sentenced in his sexual assault case at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Tim Tai/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

By Jenny Jarvie | Los Angeles Times

Slowly, Bill Cosby removed the jacket of his navy pinstripe suit, undid his necktie and rolled up his sleeves before being handcuffed and led from the courtroom.

“This is it; this is the day,” said Tamara Green, a 70-year-old Cosby accuser who had traveled from San Diego to Pennsylvania to watch the entertainer face justice.

“It’s just unbelievable and such catharsis, really,” said Victoria Valentino, 75, a former Playboy model who accused Cosby of drugging and raping her in Los Angeles in 1969. “He thought he could get away with it all.”

Completing a spectacular fall from the heights of stardom, Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison, the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be locked up.

Rejecting the defense argument that Cosby was too frail to handle time behind bars, Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill ordered the 81-year-old entertainer to serve no less than three years and no more than 10 years in prison and to register as a sex offender, a label that will follow him for the rest of his life. Cosby was taken to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in nearby Eagleville, where he will be assessed and assigned to a state institution in Pennsylvania.

“Mr. Cosby, this all circles back to you,” the judge said as he imposed the sentence. “The day has come. The time has come.”

Cosby declined the opportunity to address the court Tuesday, waiving his right to have the last word before the sentence was handed down.

The entertainer never took the witness stand during his two trials and never gave any outward indication of contrition for the crimes he was accused of committing.

The judge denied a request from Cosby’s attorneys that their client remain free on $1 million bail while he appeals his conviction.

Prosecutors had called for Cosby to spend five to 10 years in prison and pay a $25,000 fine, arguing that he is a sexual predator who has shown no remorse. The defense team countered that Cosby, who walks with a wooden cane and is legally blind, should be put under house arrest as he poses no risk to the community.

While the judge said he recognized Cosby’s age and failing health, those were not the factors he put the most weight on.

“I am not permitted to treat him any differently because of who he is or who he was,” the judge added. “Of course, the higher the ascent, the sharper the fall. I recognize that impact on you, Mr. Cosby, and I am sorry for that.”

The first major celebrity to go on trial in the #MeToo era, Cosby was convicted in April of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball official, at his home in 2004.

Cosby, who has maintained his innocence, initially faced up to 30 years in prison, but on Monday, O’Neill said the defense and prosecution had agreed to merge the three counts of his conviction into one.

Dozens of women have come forward in recent years to accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct, but Constand, 45, is the only woman whose complaint has led to a criminal conviction. Many of the alleged incidents were beyond the statute of limitations.

The barrage of accusations against Cosby has shocked and unnerved a nation that grew up watching him on television in the role of a wholesome, exemplary family man.

In the public imagination, he was “America’s Dad,” synonymous with Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable, the kindly, respectable, upper-middle-class obstetrician he portrayed on “The Cosby Show,” his popular and groundbreaking television sitcom that aired for eight seasons from 1984 until 1992.

The sentencing wraps up a long back-and-forth between Cosby and Constand. The onetime basketball official at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, first reported an assault to police in 2005. However, the Montgomery County district attorney at the time did not press charges, so she brought a civil suit against Cosby. It was not until a decade later, when a series of women came forward with accusations against Cosby, that the new district attorney, Kevin Steele, reopened the case and filed charges in state court.

In 2017, the first trial ended with a hung jury.

In the April retrial, a jury of seven men and five women found Cosby guilty of assault with lack of consent, penetration while the victim was unconscious, and assault after impairing the victim with an intoxicant.

Cosby, who posted $1 million bail, had been confined to his home outside Philadelphia during the last five months, fitted with a GPS monitor and limited to travel only to visit his attorneys or for medical reasons.

Before the judge classified Cosby as a sexual predator, a final defense witness, psychologist Timothy Foley, said that the actor did not present a significant risk to the community.

Constand submitted a written victim impact statement, which was made public Tuesday in court. On Monday, she spent less than two minutes on the stand.

“Your honor, I have testified, I have given you my victim impact statement,” Constand told the court. “The jury heard me, Mr. Cosby heard me and now all I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”