Disgraced US television icon Bill Cosby 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.
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 ushered in the #MeToo movement and America’s reckoning with sexual harassment.
Convicted five months ago of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball administrator, he showed no reaction when Judge Steven O’Neill handed down the sentence in a court in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
It makes him one of the famous Americans ever ordered to serve a prison sentence, in a country where fame and unlimited wealth spent on brilliant lawyers have tended to help celebrities avoid jail in the past.
The sentence means that Cosby could spend at least three years in prison, but up to 10. While the defence asked their client to remain under house arrest pending an appeal, the judge ordered him to be remanded into custody.
Looking at Constand, seated in the gallery, O’Neill referenced the words “no, no, no” that she heard in her head as the assault took place in January 2004, and she was powerless to fight him off after being sedated.
“You didn’t hear those words,” said O’Neill. “I heard those words. The jury heard those words.”
Prosecutors had demanded five to 10 years in prison, after the three counts of aggravated indecent assault were merged into one, served in a state prison, together with a $25,000 fine and the full cost of the prosecution.
Defence lawyers had argued that Cosby should be confined to house arrest, as he has been since his conviction, arguing that he is too old and too frail — the actor says he is legally blind — to endure a correctional facility.
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