A Pennsylvania jury has found Bill Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. The disgraced comedian could now face decades in prison when he is sentenced later this year.
Cosby, 80, was charged in December 2015 with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His first trial ended in a hung jury, but prosecutors pursued a retrial that began earlier this month. Prosecutors said he sexually assaulted a former Temple University employee, Andrea Constand, in 2004. The three charges also stem from the assault of Constand. The first charge is for aggravated indecent assault without consent, the second is because the case involved an unconscious victim and the third is because Cosby is accused of causing the impairment that led to the unconsciousness.
Any prison sentence for Cosby, who faces a maximum of 10 years in prison per count, could mean that the disgraced and aging comedian, who has had numerous health issues in recent years, will die in jail. A sentencing date has not been set.
He has been free on $1 million bail since his arrest. He will remain on bail pending sentencing, but has been ordered to not leave his home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, and will be required to wear a GPS monitor. Prosecutors did ask the judge to remand Cosby into custody immediately or raise his bail, but the judge denied that case. District Attorney Kevin Steele argued that Cosby could be a flight risk, because he has a private plane. Cosby then shocked the courtroom when he stood up and shouted at the prosecutor, “he doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”
Outside of court, Cosby’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, said they are “disappointed by the verdict, they do not think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything and the fight is not over.” He said they will appeal.
According to Pennsylvania state law, Cosby could face up to 10 years in prison on each of the three second-degree felony counts. But he could also be given probation. The aggravated indecent assault charge previously carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, but mandatory sentences were struck down by the U.S. and Pennsylvania supreme courts in 2013 and 2015 respectively (though lawmakers are trying to bring those back in some manner, Cosby would not be affected by any new law), giving discretion to the judge to decide on a sentence.
His sentencing by Judge Steven O’Neill will occur at a later date, within 90 days. It takes time for a pre-sentence investigation report to be completed by the state probation office, according to the state court’s website:
The pre-sentence report discloses the defendant’s criminal history, education, jobs, drug and alcohol use, and any mental health issues. It also recites the facts of the case, and how the crime affected the victim(s). The victim is usually contacted and given an opportunity to have a statement included in or addended to the report. The defendant is typically also given an opportunity to speak to the probation officer and provide a statement for the report; the defendant’s cooperation during this process is typically reflected in the pre-sentence report.
What Factors Will Be Used to Determine Cosby’s Sentence?
The guidelines the judge will follow and the procedures for Cosby’s sentencing are explained in the Pennsylvania Crimes of Sexual Violence bench book, which you can read below:
According to court documents in similar cases, the sentencing guidelines for aggravated indecent assault call for between 22 to 36 months in prison. But Judge O’Neill could give a higher or lower sentence, and could decide whether to set the sentences as concurrent, meaning they would be served at the same time, or consecutively. Cosby would also likely be required to register as a sex offender.
Judges in Pennsylvania are asked to consider a potential sentence up to the statutory maximum, in this case 10 years per charge. They are given a recommended sentence based on prior record score, in Cosby’s case a zero because of his lack of a criminal record, and offense gravity scale, which is high in this case. The judge will the consider aggravating and mitigating factors to determine the sentence.
Cosby’s defense team will likely seek probation or a minimal jail sentence. He is also likely to appeal, and any sentence could be delayed until that process is completed. Cosby, who is 80, has been dealing with health issues, including degenerative eye disease. His attorneys will likely argue that any substantive prison term would essentially be a life sentence for the aging actor.
But prosecutors in Montgomery County have taken a hard line on Cosby, saying in court that he used his fame and fortune to protect himself from prosecution and punishment. They have also questioned claims that he has lost his eyesight. Sources told the New York Post that the district attorney’s office has dismissed his frail appearance and eyesight issues as a ploy for sympathy. With the number of sexual assault accusations made against Cosby, both in civil court and in public statements, the district attorney’s office could ask for a significant sentence against him. It is not yet known if the other claims of sexual assault against Cosby could be used against him during sentencing, despite the statute of limitations having run out. Only one additional accuser was allowed to testify during the trial.
‘It’s Very Case Specific,’ a Former District Attorney Says
Michael Skinner, a former Chester County, Pennsylvania, district attorney, told Time that the sentencing for aggravated indecent assault varies from case to case.
“It’s very case specific. It’s going to depend upon the nature of the assault, the age of the victim and the strength of the evidence,” Skinner told Time. He said Cosby would likely receive at least three years in prison. “Given the serious nature of the allegations, I can’t imagine him getting anything less.”
Skinner also said claims by Constand that Cosby sexually harassed her on other occasions could be considered aggravated factors. The fact he used drugs to render her incapacitated and unable to consent could also be a factor in the judge’s decision, Skinner told Time.
“The DA’s office would argue this wasn’t a one-and-done type situation,” Skinner said. “Any time that a case is in the paper, it’s going to get everyone’s attention. No judge or DA’s office wants to look soft on crime.”
Are There Any Similar Cases to Compare to the Cosby Case?
Many high-profile cases of aggravated indecent assault in Pennsylvania that have gained media coverage or reached appeal courts involve children, so it is difficult to find cases to compare to Cosby. Cosby’s age and celebrity status also make his case unique.
But in one case, a Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, massage therapist was sentenced to 7 to 14 years in prison for the aggravated indecent assault of four women, according to The Daily Local newspaper. William Eric Webb was accused of molesting the women during treatments without their consent. Like Cosby, Webb was a well-respected member of the community prior to the accusations made against him.
Another man, Brennan Davis, then 33, was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in state prison in 2015 after he pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault of an unconscious victim, according to The Morning Call. Davis was accused of sexually assaulting his sleeping neighbor following a Fourth of July party.
Also in 2015, a former Robinson, Pennsylvania, dentist, Brude Lanke, was sentenced to 3 to 7 years in prison for the aggravated indecent assault of an unconscious woman, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Lanke’s victim said she went to his home after a night of drinking at a Pirates baseball game, and passed out in a bedroom. She partially awoke to find Lanke molesting her on three occasions during the night, and was able to fully wake up and leave after the third incident, according to the newspaper. The woman told police she went to sleep with her pants on and woke up with them off and on the floor.
In that case, Lanke told detectives, he thought “she was passed out and that she would never know that this occurred,” and ” temptation got the best of him.”
In 2016, a Bradford, Pennsylvania, man was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 8 years in prison for aggravated indecent assault, according to The Bradford Era. Steven J. Taylor, 25, sent threatening text messages to the victim, telling her that he she belonged to him and he would harm her children if she did not have sex with him.