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Sexual harassment and assault

US actor Bill Cosby sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for sexual assault and branded a ‘sexually violent predator’

The 81-year-old, once beloved as “America’s Dad”, is the first celebrity convicted and sentenced for a sex crime since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 2:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 4:44am

Disgraced US television icon Bill Cosby, 81, was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison by a judge on Tuesday and branded a “sexually violent predator” for assaulting a woman at his Philadelphia mansion 14 years ago.

Convicted five months ago of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball administrator, Cosby showed no reaction when Judge Steven O’Neill handed down the sentence in a court in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

“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. He quoted from victim Andrea Constand’s own statement to the court, in which she said Cosby took her “beautiful, young spirit and crushed it.”

Cosby, once beloved as “America’s Dad”, is the first celebrity convicted and sentenced for a sex crime since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein ushered in the #MeToo movement and America’s reckoning with sexual harassment. He declined the opportunity to address the court before the sentence came down.

The punishment came at the end of a two-day hearing at which the judge declared Cosby a “sexually violent predator” – a modern-day scarlet letter that subjects him to monthly counselling for the rest of his life and requires that neighbours and schools be notified of his whereabouts.

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Cosby will spend the first few days of his prison sentence at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility outside Philadelphia.

A spokeswoman for the Montgomery County district attorney’s office says Cosby will be held at the county jail for at least the next few days. From there, he will be taken to SCI Phoenix, a new state prison outside Philadelphia, where staff will assess his physical, medical and security needs. He could end up in a long-term medical care unit.

Cosby’s lawyers asked for house arrest, saying Cosby – who is legally blind – is too old and vulnerable to do time in prison. Prosecutors asked for five to 10 years behind bars, saying he could still pose a threat to women.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele rejected the notion that Cosby’s age and infirmity entitle him to mercy. “He was good at hiding this for a long time. Good at suppressing this for a long time. So it’s taken a long time to get there,” Steele said.

The sentencing came as another extraordinary #MeToo drama unfolded on Capitol Hill, where Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of sexual misconduct more than three decades ago.

The Cosby case “really raised awareness of the pervasiveness of … sexual misconduct against subordinates and against women of relatively less power,” said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s law school. “For jurors, I think it’s inherently changed the credibility of the accusers.”

In the years since Constand first went to authorities in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.

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The judge ruled on Cosby’s “sexually violent predator” status after a psychologist for the state testified that the entertainer appears to have a mental disorder that gives him an uncontrollable urge to have sex with women without their consent.

When the ruling came down, a woman in the courtroom shot her fist into the air and whispered, “Yessss!”

In a statement submitted to the court and released Tuesday, Constand, now 45, that she has had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt. She said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.

“When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” she wrote in her five-page statement.

“Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”

She also wrote of Cosby: “We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator, but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over.”