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Bill Cosby gets 3 to 10 years in Pa. prison for sex assault

| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, 11:54 a.m.
Bill Cosby departs after his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby left in handcuffs to begin serving a three-to-10 year prison sentence for sexual assault.
Bill Cosby departs after his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. Cosby left in handcuffs to begin serving a three-to-10 year prison sentence for sexual assault.
Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

NORRISTOWN — Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for his 2004 assault on Andrea Constand, capping a three-year courtroom battle that could force him to spend the final stage of his life behind bars labeled as a sexually violent predator.

“It is time for justice in a court of law,” Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill said at the close of a two-day hearing. “The day has come. The time has come.”

The 81-year-old entertainer showed little reaction as the sentence was announced in a packed Norristown courtroom, casting his eyes down at the defense table.

District Attorney Kevin R. Steele had urged the judge to lock Cosby up for the maximum 10-year term, while defense lawyers cited their client’s blindness, advanced age and declining health in a bid for house arrest.

They also asked the judge to let Cosby remain free on bail while he appeals. O’Neill denied the request, ordering instead that he be immediately taken away to prison.

“This is a serious crime,” O’Neill said. “The nature of this crime indicates that he could quite possibly be a danger to the community.”

Just before 3 p.m., sheriffs ringed Cosby and walked him, in handcuffs, from the courtroom and down a hallway.

He was expected to be transported to the Montgomery County jail in Lower Providence Township and await transport to the State Correctional Institution Phoenix in Collegeville. There, he will be evaluated for a permanent placement within the state prison system.

The judge also ordered Cosby to pay a $25,000 fine and the repay the cost of his prosecution. And though Tuesday’s hearing capped a prolonged legal battle that included a stream of hearings, appeals and two trials, the significance of the moment hung over the proceedings.

With his sentencing, Cosby becomes the first male celebrity or power broker of the #MeToo era sent to prison for decades-old sexual misconduct that in years past might have been swept under the rug or ignored. His punishment also cemented his dramatic transformation from a comedic icon revered as a trailblazer for other black entertainers to a Hollywood pariah brought down by his own sense of sexual privilege.

Steele, the prosecutor, said Cosby hid his crimes for years behind the character of Dr. Huxtable, the beloved character on his eponymous sitcom that became one of the nation’s most popular a quarter-century ago. “A lot of people believed that that’s who he was,” Steele told reporters after the sentence, “but we knew otherwise.”

The sentence came five months after a county jury convicted Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault — all tied to the night 14 years ago when he drugged and sexually assaulted Constand at his Cheltenham mansion. It was conduct that both prosecutors — and ultimately, dozens of other accusers — said followed a pattern.

For decades, the married star sought out sexual encounters with young women — many of them aspiring models and actresses — whom he had offered to mentor. Six of them testified against him at trial, telling jurors that that those friendly overtures served only as a pretext to lure them into private meetings where Cosby drugged and assaulted them.

Constand’s relationship with the comedian, which began while she was working for Temple University’s women’s basketball team in the early 2000s, played out under similar circumstances.

In her own victim impact statement to the judge, Constand described how the assault, her first attempt to bring charges in 2005, and the ensuing “psychological, emotional and financial bullying” changed her life.

“We may never know the extent of his double life as a sexual predator,” she wrote, “but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over.”

She sat with relatives as the sentence was announced Tuesday, and remained calm. Other accusers in the courtroom patted her on the shoulder.

On Tuesday, the judge addressed them both.

“As she said, Mr. Cosby, you took her beautiful healthy young spirit and crushed it,” O’Neill said, then turning to her. “I don’t know whether the defendant read your statement. I did. I heard the very clear impact on your life.”

Standing the rain outside the courthouse after the hearing, lawyer Gloria Allred huddled with some of his many accusers. “There has been no justice for many of the accusers,” she said.

Cosby has vehemently denied ever assaulting her or any woman. Throughout the proceedings, he and his defense team signaled that regardless of the sentencing his fight to clear his name is far from over.

After the hearing, Cosby publicist Andrew Wyatt said an appeal is imminent. He said the district attorney used “falsified evidence” and called the case “one of the most racist and sexist trials in the history of the United States.”

Meanwhile, Cosby’s wife, Camille announced last week that she had filed a complaint with Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board and hired a Harrisburg lawyer to investigate allegations she has lodged that O’Neill exhibited bias against her husband throughout his two trials.

Neither she nor any other relatives attended Tuesday’s hearings. The two rows reserved for his family and supporters were nearly empty.

Steele brushed aside the criticisms.

“I understand that there’s a larger societal context of this case,” he said “But I have to say … this defendant has been treated like any other defendant that our office prosecutes and there’s about 9,500 of them a year.”

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