Bill Cosby had potentially faced up to 30 years in prison, but he now faces a maximum of 10 years after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to merge the three counts of his conviction into one for sentencing purposes.
Prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to sentence Cosby to five to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, saying he had shown “no remorse” for his actions.
“This is about a person who put himself in a situation of being a mentor, but we know he had other intentions just from the beginning,” District Attorney Kevin Steele said. “We know that from the statements he made. What he saw in Andrea the first time he laid eyes on her. What his plan was. To get to the point they were going to get to. And that didn’t involve consent.”
However, Cosby’s defense attorney, Joseph P. Green, asked for a sentence of house arrest, citing Cosby’s advanced age and blindness.
“Mr. Cosby is not dangerous,” he said. “Eighty-one-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not a danger, unless perhaps to themselves.”
The sentence is expected to come on Tuesday after Judge Steven T. O’Neill decides whether Cosby should be classified a “sexually violent predator.” The determination would require him to register with state police and submit to sex-offender counseling and notification for life.
Cosby was convicted in April of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and assaulting Constand at his home in 2004, in the first high-profile celebrity criminal trial of the #MeToo era.
Judge O’Neill announced that the charges had been merged into one because they all stem from the same event. The state sentencing guidelines indicate 22 to 36 months in prison, plus or minus 12 months because of aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
Monday’s hearing also featured victim impact statements from Constand, her parents and her sister. Constand, whose testimony at trial was central to the case against Cosby, spoke for just a few moments in court.
“I have testified, I have given you my victim impact statement,” Constand said. “You heard me, the jury heard me and Mr. Cosby heard me. All I’m asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”
Sexually violent predator status
A prosecution expert said Cosby should be labeled a “sexually violent predator” because he has a mental disorder that involves urges toward nonconsenting women.
“The behaviors are beyond their controls, so they are urged to act on it. He is likely to reoffend,” Kristen Dudley, a psychologist and a member of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified in state court.
Defense attorneys challenged her assessment that he would reoffend, saying that his age and blindness made it unlikely.
A state panel had advised that Cosby should be classified as a “sexually violent predator.” Cosby declined to participate in the evaluation by Dudley, who said she came to her determination by reviewing trial transcripts and other reports.
O’Neill ruled Monday morning that the state’s classification process is constitutional, knocking down the defense’s argument that it is not. His expected ruling on Cosby’s status will not impact the rest of the sentence.
Cosby’s case tests #MeToo
Cosby’s conviction represented the first high-profile test of the #MeToo movement in a courtroom. The trial centered on testimony from Constand and also featured testimony from five “prior bad acts” witnesses who similarly said Cosby had drugged and assaulted them.
Several of Cosby’s victims also arrived at court Monday for the sentencing, including supermodel Janice Dickinson, who testified at the trial. Cosby arrived with his spokespeople, Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson.
Cosby, the groundbreaking actor and comedian, did not testify at the trial. But when prosecutors asked the judge to revoke his bail because, they claimed, he has a private plane, Cosby stood up and yelled, “He doesn’t have a plane, you a**hole,” referring to himself in the third-person.
Green downplayed the outburst on Monday when requesting that Cosby receive house arrest.
“Mr. Cosby’s frustration got the better of him and he used a name towards Mr. Steele he shouldn’t have,” Green said, asking the judge to consider the context.
“When Mr. Steele’s witnesses at trial made outbursts, that was excused, everybody understands, but when the defendant makes one it deserves 3 pages in a sentencing memorandum?”
Cosby has remained out of prison for the past five months on $1 million bail, and his lawyers said they plan to appeal his convictions. Cosby could also be allowed to remain out of prison until any legal appeal is resolved.
The decision is ultimately up to O’Neill, who oversaw Cosby’s 2018 retrial, as well as his mistrial a year earlier that ended in a hung jury.
Constand’s family speaks
Constand’s mother told the court in her victim-impact statement that her family feels “vindicated.”
“This battle was about justice and our family feels that we have been vindicated,” Gianna Constand said. “The victims cannot be unraped, all we can do is hold the perpetrators responsible.”
Andrea Constand’s father, Andrew, told the court: “The thought of what happened to my daughter … will always be with me forever like a dark cloud hanging over my head.”
O’Neill last week denied prosecutors’ request to present “numerous” witnesses who would testify that Cosby sexually abused them in incidents that did not result in criminal charges, court records show.
Cosby also could address the court in an “allocution,” Kate Delano, spokeswoman for the county prosecutor’s office, said. Convicts typically use the opportunity before a sentence is handed down to ask for mercy.
Monday’s sentencing came as Cosby’s defense team has accused O’Neill of bias and asked him to remove himself from the case — and to reverse an order that allowed the trial to happen in the first place.
At issue was a “nasty” personal conflict involving a prior district attorney, Bruce Castor, Cosby’s team argued. O’Neill last week denied the motion, calling it untimely and “wholly without merit,” court records show.
Camille Cosby, Bill Cosby’s wife, said in a statement that she had retained a former prosecutor to facilitate her efforts to “uncover the truth” regarding what she says is a feud between O’Neill and Castor.
Since the April verdicts, Cosby has not been permitted to leave his Pennsylvania home. If he wanted to leave the state for another home, he’d have to arrange it ahead of time and wear a GPS monitoring device, O’Neill ruled in April.
By Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper, CNN