Bill Cosby gets away with a slap on the wrist


Montgomery County Correctional

Bill Cosby’s mugshot. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By Ana Altchek, Staff Columnist

When Andrea Constand charged Bill Cosby, “America’s Dad,” with sexual assault, the country reacted fiercely. Droves of celebrities took to Twitter — some denounced the former sitcom star while others defended him.

But after 60 women came forward confirming the 81-year-old’s pattern of drugging and assaulting women, no one could possibly defend him. Now it’s surprising that Cosby will only receive three to 10 years in prison. While Cosby’s sentence is in some ways a victory — it acknowledges he’s guilty — it’s not a sufficient punishment for someone who violently assaulted dozens of women.

This isn’t the first time our justice system has under-sentenced a rapist — the most recent case involved Brock Turner, a first-year swimmer at Stanford who was given only three months in prison for attempting to rape an incapacitated woman in 2016.

The public rightly decried Turner’s extremely lenient sentence.

“The case, when I first heard about it, is just extremely heartbreaking,” Megan Calfas, a 20 year-old Stanford student, told Fusion. “It makes me lose a lot of faith in our justice system.

Judge Aaron Persky justified the light sentence saying Turner’s “remorse seemed genuine” and that sexual assault charges had “poisoned” the teen’s life.

But the jury deemed Turner guilty of three felonies, which should have landed him up to six years in prison.

Brock Turner didn’t face proper justice in 2016, but now, in light of the #MeToo movement and numerous women’s marches in 2017, that should change — and to some degree it has changed. Since the #MeToo movement’s inception in 2017, with dozens of women coming forward to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Cosby’s case is the first to reach a courtroom.

But since the #MeToo movement has outed more than 200 alleged rapists and assailants — including A-list actor Kevin Spacey and former Senator Al Franken — one conviction with a short sentence is hardly a victory.

In fact, the drug Cosby allegedly used to incapacitate women — Quaaludes, a sedative currently banned by the FDA — can land someone in prison up to five years simply for possession, even longer than Cosby’s minimum sentence of three years for rape.

Constand, the survivor who accused Cosby of sexual assault, exposed his routine of luring women into his house, drugging them with a sedative and then assaulting them when they were immobilized and powerless.

“My mind is saying, ‘Move your hands. Kick. Can you do anything? I don’t want this. Why is this person doing this? And me not being able to react in any specific way,” Constand said in an interview on the Today show.

When Cosby performed these assaults, he simultaneously put women’s emotional stability and physical health in danger — overdosing on Quaaludes can cause seizures, a coma or even death. There are no blurred lines in this case — it’s simply criminal and culpable behavior.

“It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come,” Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said after the trial had been closed.

Yet this is far from justice. The average sentence length for sex offenders is 11 years, and depending on the severity of the case — up to a lifetime. But Cosby received only a maximum of 10 years, showing that those in power can get away with this horrific behavior — and it’s a slap in the face to the 60 women he violated in the most gruesome manner.

Although only Constand actually charged Cosby with assault — she was the only accuser still within the statute of limitations — five other women served as witnesses in the trial and shared their personal accounts of Cosby’s sexually aggressive behavior. The judge and jury were well aware this was a pattern, not a one-time incident.

While Cosby will likely die in prison, his lackluster punishment sets a dangerous precedent for other, less severe sexual assault cases. If Cosby receives only 10 years, other offenders may never see jail time at all. This just incentivizes men in power to continue behaving inappropriately because when it comes to prosecution, they still have the upper hand.

And this only contributes to a culture that discourages women from speaking up — between 65 and 85 percent of rape victims already don’t report their assaults to authorities.

Bill Cosby’s conviction may give women faith that their accounts can stand up in a court of law — but not confidence that they absolutely will.

Still, this is the first high profile court case since the dawn of the #MeToo movement — so we can’t expect the justice system to be perfect on this issue yet.

Society is moving in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go before we bring every perpetrator to justice.

Ana primarily writes about culture and social issues. Write to Ana at [email protected].