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Years-long Cosby Trial Finally Ends in Sentencing

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Though his reputation as a warm and lighthearted comic earned him the nickname “America’s Dad,” Bill Cosby’s fall from grace culminated September 25 in a prison sentence of up to ten years on charges of sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004.

Although his case will undeniably be linked to the “#MeToo” movement’s exposure of sexual misconduct in entertainment that reached prominence last year, it is easy to forget that Cosby’s criminal past came to light all the way back in 2014. A Hannibal Buress joke on the subject during a normal stand-up routine (which may suggest that Cosby’s criminality had been an “open secret” in Hollywood) sparked dozens of women coming forward with their experiences, claiming that he had a pattern of drug-facilitated sexual assault that dated all the way back to the 1960s.

In total, a group of 58 women came forward, but statutes of limitation on the charges in question prevented many of them from going to court over them. Constand, who had already reached a confidential settlement over the incident in a 2005 civil case, was able to continue forward and did so. In December 2015, when it became public information that Cosby had recreationally used hypnotic drugs with multiple women, he was charged with multiple felonies.

The issue quickly became a multi-year ordeal, with the first trial ending in a mistrial. It was not until three years later, in 2018, that he was finally found guilty on these charges and eventually sentenced. It remains to be seen if any more prosecutable offenses emerge relating to his actions, but the potential ten years will be significant punishment for Cosby, who is currently 81 years old.

Regardless of the sentence, victims of Cosby’s actions were happy to hear that he would finally face some consequences for his actions. Andrea Constand herself said that she was happy that his high-profile status did not prevent him from punishment, noting “…that he is touchable.” Nevertheless, plenty also expressed regret that many of his victims would not get their chance to fully confront him. Gloria Allred, the high-profile attorney representing over 30 of the victims, went so far as to say that “…there has been no justice for many of the accusers….” when asked about those who were not able to press charges.

Cosby’s defense team was obviously less enthused over the result (his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt responded to the verdict by saying, “They persecuted Jesus and look what happened.”), but they do not appear to be filing an appeal, meaning the legal process may have reached its resolution, for better or worse.

As per the sentencing, Judge Steven O’Neill ruled that Cosby must also be charged as a “sexually violent predator” under Pennsylvania classifications, in addition to prison. However, the real long-term implications of this trial may be cultural more than anything else. For many, he was an icon throughout his entertainment career, and his use of comedy as an attempt to heal racial divides only built to his importance. Now, of course, those perceptions have become footnotes to a much uglier truth, and his punishment is emblematic of the consequences that many similarly disgraced entertainers are facing for their actions.

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Years-long Cosby Trial Finally Ends in Sentencing