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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Cosby guilty of sexually assaulting woman after plying her with drugs

Bill Cosby leaves court after being freed on €1m bail
Bill Cosby leaves court after being freed on €1m bail

Comedian Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and molesting a former friend in 2004.

It marks the first such conviction of a celebrity since the creation of the #MeToo movement which has brought down rich and powerful men for their treatment of women.

Cosby (80), best known as the lovable father from the 1980s TV hit The Cosby Show, faces up to 10 years in prison for each of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand (45) following a three-week trial at the Montgomery County courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Sobbing

Cosby looked down with a sad expression when the jury's verdict was read out. Lili Bernard, one of his many accusers, began sobbing while Ms Constand sat stony-faced.

Judge Steven O'Neill ruled that Cosby could remain out of jail on $1m (€826,000) bail pending sentencing at a later date, and he left the courthouse.

District Attorney Kevin Steele had asked the judge to have Cosby taken into custody immediately, saying he was a flight risk, in part because he owned a plane.

"He doesn't have a plane, you a**hole!" Cosby responded, breaking the decorum he had shown throughout the trial.

Bill Cosby accusers Lili Bernard and Caroline Heldman pose for a selfie at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Bill Cosby accusers Lili Bernard and Caroline Heldman pose for a selfie at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Outside the courtroom, two other Cosby accusers were seen hugging, crying and clapping.

"It's a victory not just for the 62 of us who have come forward but for all survivors of sexual assault, female and male," Ms Bernard told reporters, using a high estimate of the number of Cosby's accusers.

"I feel like my faith in hum- anity is restored."

The jury's unanimous dec-ision came less than a year after a different jury failed to reach a verdict last June in his first trial on the same charges, prompting Judge O'Neill to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors decided to retry Cosby.

Soon after the first trial, a series of women levelled sexual assault and harassment accusations against men in media, entertainment and politics, giving rise to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

The conviction marks the downfall of a man once celebrated as America's Dad, but whose reputation was ruined after 50 women accused him of similar offences going back decades.

Only one of those cases was recent enough to be eligible for prosecution, that of Ms Constand, a former administrator for the women's basketball team at Temple University, Cosby's alma mater.

Like many of Cosby's other accusers, she said she was drugged and violated while unable to defend herself.

Cosby has said any sexual encounters were consensual, and his lawyers portrayed Ms Constand as a "pathological liar" who falsely depicted their romantic relationship as an attack.

Five other women testified to similar treatment from Cosby, whose lawyers argued that they were fabricating stories in search of wealth and fame.

Prosecutors countered that the real scam artist was Cosby, who hid behind his kindly TV persona to win the trust of women he then drugged and sexually assaulted.

The jury sided with Ms Constand, who testified that she went to Cosby's house to discuss a potential career change when he gave her three blue pills he said would relax her. She said the pills made her feel woozy, and that Cosby walked her to a sofa and laid her down.

"The next thing I recall, I was kind of jolted awake," Ms Constand said from the witness stand. "My vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully. I felt my breasts being touched.

"He put my hand on his penis and masturbated himself with my hand. I was not able to do a thing."

The prosecution case was bolstered by the five additional accusers who were allowed to testify. In the first trial, Judge O'Neill allowed only one accuser besides Ms Constand to take the witness stand.

He also allowed the second jury to hear another piece of evidence struck from the first trial, that Cosby agreed to pay Ms Constand $3.38m (€2.8m) to settle a civil lawsuit after prosecutors in 2005 initially declined to bring criminal charges.

Fabricate

The settlement barred Ms Constand from discussing publicly either the lawsuit or the underlying allegations.

The defence team portrayed the settlement as evidence of a scheme by Ms Constand to falsely accuse a celebrity of sexual assault to reap millions of dollars.

The prosecution pointed to that same $3.38m as evidence of Cosby's need to silence Ms Constand about the attack.

In a victory for the defence, the judge allowed the testimony of Margo Jackson, who said Ms Constand once told her "it would be easy" to fabricate an accusation of sexual assault against a celebrity to make money.

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