Bill Cosby, who was found guilty of sexual assault in April after a jury heard allegations from Andrea Constand, faced a judge Monday as his sentencing hearing got underway.
The 81-year-old comedian is set to learn this week whether he gets prison time, probation or house arrest.
On Monday, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill said he was merging all of Cosby’s counts into one. (The state sentencing guidelines are 22 to 36 months total confinement plus or minus 12 months on the combined charge.)
Cosby previously was facing up to 30 years in prison, as the three charges on which he was convicted carry up to 10 years in prison each, but both sides agreed to merge them together for sentencing because they stemmed from the same encounter.
District Attorney Kevin Steele has asked O’Neill to sentence Cosby to five to ten years in state prison. Meanwhile, Cosby’s defence attorney Joseph Green said, “Incarceration would impose excessive hardship,” adding: “What does an 81-year-old man do in prison?”
Sentencing is expected to last two days.
As previously reported, Cosby was found guilty on three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting Constand, 45, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.
The guilty verdict brought an end to a long-running downward spiral for Cosby, who was accused by dozens of women of similar crimes after public interest in his rape allegations was renewed. Constand’s allegations were in line with others, but hers were unique in that the statute of limitations on the crime had not yet expired.
His trial was heralded as the first major celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. As a result, there’s massive public attention being paid to the outcome with those coming out against Cosby wondering if the court will give him a pass in terms of punishment given his fame.
“I really think it’s important that he spend some time behind bars,” said Lise-Lotte Lublin, who said Cosby assaulted her when she was 23 in 1989. The then-model said Cosby prodded her to take two drinks to relax. “At some point, he should acknowledge what he’s done, and do the time for the crime.”
Another Cosby accuser, Chelan Lasha, previously said he “deserves every year” of his sentence.
Once called “America’s Dad,” Cosby’s reputation sank after comedian Hannibal Buress brought up the numerous rape allegations against the comic in 2014. Since then, more than 60 women have come forward with allegations against him.
Cosby and his legal team have shown that they want to mitigate the amount of damage being done to his reputation, starting with the classification of him as a “sexually violent predator.”
Pennsylvania’s sex-offender board had examined Cosby and recommended he be deemed a predator, concluding that he has a mental defect or personality disorder that makes him prone to criminal behaviour.
Kristen Dudley, a Pennsylvania state board psychologist, testified that Cosby had an uncontrollable urge to violate young women and would probably commit another offence if given the chance. Dudley added that Cosby’s assault of Andrea Constand fit a long pattern of predatory behaviour by the former “Cosby Show” star.
Cosby often befriended women, then betrayed their trust by sedating them with drugs or alcohol and violating them for the “sole purpose of his sexual gratification,” Dudley testified.
Trying to avoid the predator designation for their client, Cosby’s lawyers argued that the state law itself is unconstitutional. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have rewritten their sex-offender reporting laws after courts found them vague and unfairly punitive.
Prosecutors told the judge that the law is necessary for public safety, and the judge allowed the hearing on Cosby’s status to proceed.
The legal wrangling came at the start of a hearing that will determine how the comedian will be punished for knocking Constand out with pills and assaulting her at his suburban Philadelphia home more than 14 years ago.