Judge to sentence Bill Cosby for sexual assault, capping his downfall

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) - Bill Cosby will learn on Tuesday whether he will go to prison for sexual assault as a sentencing hearing in a Pennsylvania courtroom concludes, capping the comedian’s downfall from “America’s Dad” to disgraced felon.

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A soap bubble blown by a protester drifts past actor and comedian Bill Cosby as he arrives at the Montgomery County Courthouse for sentencing in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

Cosby, who was found guilty in April, is the first celebrity to be convicted since the start of the #MeToo movement, the national reckoning with sexual misconduct that has brought down dozens of powerful men in entertainment, politics and other fields.

Cosby, 81, cemented his family-friendly reputation playing the mischievous but lovable Dr. Cliff Huxtable in the 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.”

That has since been eclipsed by his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, in his Philadelphia-area home in 2004. More than 50 other women also have accused him of sexual abuse going back decades, with most too old to prosecute. The Constand case is the only allegation that has resulted in a conviction.

Constand spoke briefly on the first day of the hearing on Monday.

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Actor and comedian Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse after his first day of sentencing hearings in his sexual assault trial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

“Your honor, I have testified,” Constand said. “I have given you my victim impact statement. The jury heard me. Mr. Cosby heard me. All I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill said he must first rule on whether to designate Cosby a “sexually violent predator” under state law. On Monday, he heard from a state-appointed psychologist who said the designation was necessary because there was a risk of Cosby committing another offense.

Citing Cosby’s frailty and blindness, Cosby’s lawyers opposed the label, which would carry more onerous reporting requirements, including monthly counseling and registration as a sex offender with police for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum prison sentence of between five and 10 years, citing the nature of Cosby’s crime as well as his alleged history of misconduct. They also asked the judge to levy a $25,000 fine on Cosby and make him pay court costs. If ever he came up for parole, prosecutors want him to submit to a “psycho-sexual evaluation” that he had refused prior to sentencing.

Cosby’s lawyers asked for house arrest rather than prison time, arguing that imprisonment was overly punitive given his age.

Cosby’s first trial in 2017 ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Soon after that proceeding, a series of women began leveling sexual misconduct allegations against influential men, launching the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have encouraged victims to speak up about their experiences.

Reporting by David DeKok; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Tom Brown

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