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Cosby risks sentence of up to 10 years

Comedian Bill Cosby leaves after the first day of a sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania. — AFP

Disgraced television icon Bill Cosby risks being sentenced to a maximum punishment of 10 years after the Canadian woman whom he sexually assaulted appealed for “justice” from a US court. The frail 81-year-old-once beloved as “America’s Dad”-became the first celebrity of the #MeToo era convicted of a sex crime, for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball administrator, at his Philadelphia mansion in January 2004. “All I’m asking for is justice as the court sees fit,” Constand told the court Monday on the first of Cosby’s two-day hearing in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Around 60 women, many of them onetime aspiring actresses and models, publicly branded the pioneering actor a calculating, serial predator who plied victims with sedatives and alcohol to bed them over four decades.

But the case involving Constand, a former Temple University employee turned massage therapist, was the only one recent enough to have come to court. The pioneering comedian and award-winning actor now risks becoming one of the most famous Americans ever sent to prison. Prosecutors demanded the “maximum” sentence, served in a state prison, together with a $25,000 fine and the full cost of the prosecution. Defense lawyers argue that Cosby should be restricted to house arrest, arguing that he is too old and too frail-the actor says he is legally blind-to endure the rough and tumble of a correctional facility.

‘No remorse’
The actor once adored by millions for his defining role on “The Cosby Show” sat silently in court, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and patterned tie. He appeared relaxed, at times chatting and smiling with his defense team. Constand’s parents and sister testified, recalling how traumatic her ordeal at the hands of Cosby had been for the entire family. Her sister described Constand as “frail,” “timid” and “nervous” after the assault, the opposite of her customary vibrant personality. Chief prosecutor Kevin Steele castigated Cosby for failing to express any remorse for his crimes.

“He doesn’t believe that he did anything wrong,” Steele told the court, dismissing the argument that Cosby was “too old” to go to jail. “Nobody is above the law,” he added. On Monday, Judge Steven O’Neill confirmed that both sides agreed to merge into one the three counts of aggravated indecent assault, reducing the maximum sentence he had theoretically faced from 30 to 10 years. The prosecution also wants Cosby slapped on a list of violent sexual predators, as recommended by a state board. The defense does not.

Future victim ‘possible’
Pennsylvania law defines a sexually violent predator as an offender with “a mental abnormality or personality disorder” that makes them likely to engage in repeat crimes. The classification would force Cosby to register with state police for the rest of his life and submit to mandatory sex offender counseling. “Mr Cosby is not dangerous. Eighty-one-year-old blind men that are not self sufficient are not dangerous,” hit back defense lawyer Joseph Green.

A psychologist and member of the assessment board said that it was “possible” he had already met “a future victim,” saying being blind was irrelevant. “Being blind doesn’t make you unconscious,” she said. A key witness for the defense, psychologist Timothy Foley, testified yesterday. Only after that will O’Neill impose his punishment, making Cosby the first celebrity sentenced for a sex crime since the 2017 downfall of Harvey Weinstein ushered in a US watershed on sexual harassment. The once towering figure in late 20th century American popular culture was the first black actor to grace primetime US television has been confined to his home on a $1 million bail for nearly three years. A group of Cosby accusers, chatting and hugging one another during court recess, attended proceedings in an almost triumphant mood.-AFP

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