(NORRISTOWN, PA) — It was a long, uphill battle, years in the making, but prosecutors in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, finally won the conviction on felony sexual assault charges of the man once revered as “America’s Dad.”
At the age of 80, Bill Cosby was convicted today on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from drugging and molesting a woman in his suburban Pennsylvania home 14 years ago.
As the verdict was read just before 2 p.m. in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Cosby leaned his head down, took a deep breath and appeared to close his eyes.
Cosby’s main accuser, Andrea Constand, and two other women who say Cosby also drugged and sexually assaulted them were in the courtroom and burst into tears as the verdict was announced.
“I feel like my faith in humanity has been restored,” one of the women, Lili Bernard, said after hearing the verdict. “I stand here in the spirit of Martin Luther King, who said that the arch of the moral universe is long but today it has bent towards justice.
“Today, this jury has shown what the #MeTo movement is saying, that women are worthy of being believed,” she said. “And I thank the jury, I think the prosecution.”
The conviction came about 11 months after a mistrial was declared in Cosby’s first trial when a jury failed to reach a verdict.
The jury of seven men and five women began deliberating Wednesday and spent a little over 12 hours going over evidence presented to them over the last two weeks before rendering their unanimous decision.
“Andrea Constand came here to Norristown for justice and that is what 12 jurors from Montgomery County provided her,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said during a post-verdict news conference. “We have shown from our record that money and power or who you are will not stop us from a criminal investigation or prosecuting a case.”
Steele, who prosecuted the case with assistant district attorneys Kristen Feden and Stewart Ryan, added that the investigation unmasked Cosby as “a man who has spent decades preying on women that he drugged and sexually assaulted.”
Steele said he will move to get Cosby, a multimillionaire, to pay for not only the cost of this trial but the previous one as well. He noted that lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau said in his opening argument that the $3.38 million Cosby paid in 2005 to settle a sexual assault lawsuit filed against him by Constand was a “paltry sum.”
“So clearly the cost of prosecution in this matter should not be a problem for the defendant,” Steele said.
As Steel spoke, Constand stood stoically nearby but did not make a statement to reporters.
“He used his celebrity, he used his wealth, he used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes,” Steele said. “And now we really know today who was behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was and a jury has spoken with one voice in a court of law and found the defendant guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his Elkins Park home.”
After the verdict was announced, Steele asked Judge Steven O’Neill to revoke Cosby’s bail and send him to jail right away.
“I understand this is very serious … however, to ask to revoke the bail of an individual … [what] is your concern?” O’Neill asked Steele.
“Flight,” Steele said. “To any place. He has a plane.”
At that point, Cosby screamed out in a booming voice: “He doesn’t have a plane, you a——!”
Judge O’Neill ordered Cosby to surrender his passport but ruled he can remain free on $1 million bail until his sentencing sometime in the next 60 to 90 days. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
Asked later by reporters what he thought about Cosby’s courtroom outburst, Steele said, “Well, I guess you got to see a brief view of who he was.”
Mesereau said Cosby will appeal the conviction.
“We are very disappointed by the verdict,” Mesereau told reporters outside the courthouse. “We don’t think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything and the fight is not over.”
Mesereau and the Cosby defense team had banked on a backlash to the #MeToo movement against the abuse and sexual harassment of women, describing it as a mob mentality “based primarily on emotion and anger.”
Attorney Gloria Allred blasted the defense team for attempting to undercut the credibility Cosby’s accusers by portraying them as liars out to frame the comedian. During the trial, Mesereau called Constand a “pathological liar” and a “con artist.”
“Tom Mesereau, you tried and failed,” Allred told reporters outside the courthouse. “Bill Cosby, I have three words for you: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
Cosby declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse. He pumped his right fist in the air as a small crowd of supporters gathered nearby encouraged him to stay strong. He stuck his hand out the window of a black sport utility vehicle and waved at supporters as he was driven away.
Cosby was convicted of charges connected to the assault on Constand, 44, a former director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, where Cosby was a trustee and major financial donor. Constand testified that Cosby gave her a powerful drug that rendered her dizzy, weak and unable to defend herself as he sexually assaulted her in 2004 at his home.
The prosecution was also allowed to call five other women to testify that Cosby assaulted them in the same manner.
While Constand didn’t publically speak about the verdict, her attorney, Dolores Troiani, said, “The person who I think needs to be heralded for what she has done is Andrea.”
“She came here 14 years ago for justice. I am so happy today that I can say that although justice was delayed, it was not denied,” Troiani said. “It took a lot of courage for her to come back and to do this.”
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