The world’s attention returned to a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, courtroom yesterday (September 24) and today (September 25) as Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years behind bars for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. Judge Steven O’Neill delievered the sentence—which also mandated payment of $25,000 plus prosecutorial costs—nearly five months after the jury convicted the comedian of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
CNN notes that prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed yesterday to merge the three counts against Cosby into one for sentencing purposes. Each count carried a maximum sentence of a decade behind bars, which means that the standing sentence would have maxed out at 10 years.
The Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney confirmed O’Neill’s ruling in a pair of tweets:
Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison.— Montgomery County DA (@MontcopaDA) September 25, 2018
Bill Cosby’s sentence also included $25,000 fine and cost of prosecution.— Montgomery County DA (@MontcopaDA) September 25, 2018
According to The Associated Press, O’Neill ruled earlier today that Cosby is a “sexually violent predator,” which means that he must undergo ongoing counseling and recurring check-ins with authorities. His name will also appear on a sex offender list, to be disseminated to his neighbors and nearby schools in suburban Philadelphia.
“It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you,” O’Neill added today, as quoted by The AP. “The time has come.”
The first trial for Cosby’s 2004 abuse of Constand ended in a mistrial in June 2017. Constand was one of nearly 60 women who accused Cosby of sexual assault and related violence over a period of more than 50 years. Many allegations, like Constand’s, involved a pattern of behavior in which “The Cosby Show” star drugged the women via pills or a spiked beverage before raping or molesting them in their altered state. Constand and five other accusers testified in a second trial in April of this year.
Constand offered additional testimony on the harm Cosby caused in a victim impact statement that prosecutors released today. She mentioned Cosby’s former position on the board of trustees at Temple University—where she worked with the women’s basketball team at the time that Cosby assaulted her—as contributing to her anguish:
I had just given my two-month notice at Temple when the man I had come to know as a mentor and friend drugged and sexually assaulted me. Instead of being able to run, jump and pretty much do anything I wanted physically, during the assault I was paralyzed and completely helpless. I could not move my arms or legs. I couldn’t speak or even remain conscious. I was completely vulnerable, and powerless to protect myself.
After the assault, I wasn’t sure what had actually happened but the pain spoke volumes. The shame was overwhelming. Self-doubt and confusion kept me from turning to my family or friends as I normally did. I felt completely alone, unable to trust anyone, including myself.
I made it through the next few weeks by focusing on work. The women’s basketball team was in the middle of the Atlantic 10 tournament and was traveling a lot. It was an extremely busy time for me, and the distraction helped take my mind off what had happened.
When the team wasn’t on the road, however, I was in the basketball office at Temple, and was required to interact with Mr. Cosby, who was on the Board of Trustees. The sound of his voice over the phone felt like a knife going through my guts. The sight of the man who drugged and sexually assaulted me coming into the basketball office filled me with dread.
Cosby did not speak in his defense prior to the sentence announcement. The AP reports that O’Neill rejected a request that Cosby remain free on bail.
Cosby is the first high-profile entertainer sentenced for sexual abuse in the months since the #MeToo movement achieved widespread public attention.