CBS/AP September 25, 2018, 12:24 PM Bill Cosby sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for 2004 sex assault
Last Updated Sep 25, 2018 2:34 PM EDT
NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman over a decade ago, becoming the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison. Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill handed down the sentence after he ruled Cosby to be a "sexually violent predator" for the assault on Temple University women's basketball administrator Andrea Constand at the comedian's estate near Philadelphia in 2004.
"It is time for justice. Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come," O'Neill said. He quoted from Constand's own statement to the court, in which she said Cosby took her "beautiful, young spirit and crushed it."
The punishment all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall for the comedian, former TV star and breaker of racial barriers.
"It is a significant part of the #MeToo movement and will be a watershed moment," said CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.
Some of Cosby's accusers, with linked arms, cried as the sentence was read, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.
The "sexually violent predator" classification means that Cosby must also undergo lifetime counseling and report quarterly to authorities. His name will appear on a sex-offender registry sent to neighbors, schools and victims.
Cosby's lawyers had fought the "sexually violent predator" designation, arguing that Pennsylvania's sex-offender law remains unconstitutional despite several revisions. The judge heard testimony Tuesday from a defense psychologist who says Cosby is no longer a danger, given his age, and should not be subject to the label.
But O'Neill said prosecutors had met their burden of proof by "clear and convincing" evidence.
When the ruling came down, a woman in courtroom shot her fist into the air and whispered, "Yessss!"
Cosby declined the opportunity to address the court before the judge retreated to his chambers around noon to weigh the sentence.
The once-beloved entertainer dubbed "America's Dad" for his role as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the top-ranked 1980s-era "Cosby Show" could have faced anywhere from probation to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors on Monday asked a judge to give the comedian five to 10 years behind bars, while his lawyers asked for house arrest, saying the legally blind Cosby, 81, is too old and helpless to do time in prison.
In the years since Constand first went to authorities in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct or assault, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.
"The victims cannot be un-raped. Unfortunately, all we can do is hold the perpetrator accountable," said Gianna Constand, the victim's mother, who testified Monday that her daughter's buoyant personality was forever changed after the attack.
Defense attorney Joseph Green started the second day of Cosby's sentencing hearing by getting a psychologist for the state to acknowledge it is possible Cosby is in "full remission" from a psychological disorder she says gives him the uncontrollable urge to assault women.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Monday Cosby would no doubt commit similar crimes if given the chance, warning that the former TV star seemingly gets a sexual thrill out of slipping women drugs and assaulting them.
Cosby, he said, has shown repeatedly that he feels no remorse over his actions. And he said the sentence should send a message.
"Despite bullying tactics, despite PR teams and other folks trying to change the optics, as one lawyer for the defense put it, the bottom line is that nobody's above the law. Nobody," the district attorney said.
In a five-page statement submitted to the court, Andrea Constand, now 45, said the assault robbed her of her self-confidence and affects her to this day. Constand said she now lives alone with her two dogs and has trouble trusting people.
"When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities," she wrote. "Now, almost 15 years later, I'm a middle-aged woman who's been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward."
The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Constand and other accusers have done.