Bill Cosby has been sentenced to three to 10 years in jail for sexual assault, at the culmination of the biggest celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neil ruled Crosby was a “sexually violent predator” before jailing him, meaning he must undergo monthly counselling for the rest of his life and report quarterly to authorities. His name will appear on a sex-offender registry sent to neighbours, schools and victims.
The 81-year-old’s sentence marks the final chapter in a saga which began four years ago, with the floodgates opened by a stand-up comedian who publicly aired long-held rumours about his behaviour.
More than 60 women subsequently came forward to accuse the once-beloved comedian of a slew of attacks, and in June 2017 he went on trial for assaulting Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at Temple University in Philadelphia.
She accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her in 2004, and charges were filed on the cusp of the statute of limitations kicking in. Other women, who accused Cosby of assaults dating back to the 1960s, championed Ms Constand’s case and supported her in court, being unable to pursue their own historic cases owing to the time passed.
That first trial ended up with a mistrial, but a second trial, in April, saw him convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault.
Judge O’Neill, passed sentence in Norristown, on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Cosby had been facing a maximum sentence of 30 years.
In a written victim impact statement given to the court on Monday, Constant said the attack had turned her into a woman who was “stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”
“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it,” she wrote
State guidelines in Pennsylvania for someone like Cosby, with no previous convictions, call for between one and four years behind bars. Furthermore, Cosby is legally blind and uses a walking stick, which his lawyers argued means he does not pose a threat to society.
Yet Kirsten Dudley, a Pennsylvania state board psychologist, argued in favour of Cosby being officially deemed a “sexually violent predator” – meaning that he would be one of only 1,500 people in the state subject to mandatory lifetime counselling and community notification of their whereabouts.
She testified that he had an uncontrollable urge to violate young women, and poses a continued threat.
His behaviour, she said, followed a pattern of befriending women then abusing their trust by drugging them for the “sole purpose of his sexual gratification”.
Ahead of the sentencing, Lise-Lotte Lublin, who accused Cosby of assaulting her in 1989, said she felt he should be sentenced to prison.
“I really think it’s important that he spend some time behind bars,” she said. “At some point, he should acknowledge what he’s done, and do the time for the crime.”
Chelan Lasha, 48, who accuses Cosby of molesting her in 1986, when she went to his Las Vegas hotel room for acting lessons aged 17, said she still had nightmares about the attack. She said she wanted him to serve the maximum jail sentence.
“What’s 30 years compared to the years and decades of pain that he has brought on so many women?” she said.