Bill Cosby’s downfall from “America’s Dad” to convicted felon will reach its final chapter in a Pennsylvania courtroom on Monday, when a judge will begin deciding whether to sentence the 81-year-old comedian to prison for sexual assault.
Cosby, who was found guilty in April, is the first celebrity to be convicted since the start of the #MeToo movement, the national reckoning with sexual misconduct that has brought down dozens of powerful men in entertainment, politics and other industries.The once beloved star of the 1980s television comedy “The Cosby Show” has seen his family-friendly reputation destroyed by allegations of sexual abuse from more than 50 women going back decades.
The sentencing hearing is expected to last two days.
Cosby faces up to 10 years on each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, though it is unlikely Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill would go as high as 30 years, according to Steven Chanenson, a law professor at Villlanova University and an expert on sentencing.
State sentencing guidelines, which are not mandatory, recommend a sentence between two and four years, Chanenson said.
Prosecutors are expected to seek a lengthy sentence, citing the nature of Cosby’s crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct. Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004.
Defense lawyers will likely point to Cosby’s age, frailty and failing vision.
Cosby’s first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Soon after that proceeding, a series of women began leveling sexual misconduct allegations against influential men, launching the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences.
The judge allowed prosecutors to call five other accusers as witnesses in Cosby’s second trial over the objections of his defense team, bolstering Constand’s account. All of the women told stories that were markedly similar to Constand’s: Cosby would offer to be their mentor before plying them with alcohol and drugs and sexually assaulting them.
Prosecutors had asked O’Neill for permission to call an unspecified number of accusers as witnesses during the sentencing hearing, but the judge denied that request last week.
By David DeKok