Photo via Montgomery County Planning Commission
Comedian, actor, and sexual abuser Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault on Thursday, convictions that could carry as much as 30 years of prison time — a potential life sentence for the 80-year-old disgraced American icon.
Thursday’s verdict was the result of a second trial over assault charges brought against Cosby by Andrea Constand, who testified that he drugged and sexually violated her in 2004. After the first trial ended in a hung jury last year, the new decision represents the first high-profile conviction since the #MeToo movement brought concerns of sexual abuse and toxic masculinity to the societal forefront.
For Cosby, the reckoning for his decades of sexual abuse began in 2014, when comedian Hannibal Buress made remarks about the disgusting behavior of a man once known as “America’s Dad.” Shortly after Buress’ comments hit the internet, more than 50 women around the country began coming forward about their experiences with "The Cosby Show" star; many of them describing similar situations of Cosby forcing them to take drugs and assaulting them after they had lost the ability to fight back.
The same can be said for Constand, who was working in the athletic department at Temple University — Cosby’s alma mater where he sat on the board of trustees and donated millions of dollars — at the time of her interaction with the sitcom star. On a visit to Cosby’s suburban Philadelphia home for career advice, Constand testified that Cosby gave her three pills that he said would help her “relax.” After taking the pills, Constand said that she went into both a mental and physical haze, but remembers Cosby performing sexual acts on her body without consent.
“I was kind of jolted awake and felt Mr. Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched,” Ms. Constand said in the Pennsylvania courtroom. “I was limp, and I could not fight him off.”
While dozens of Cosby’s alleged assaults happened decades ago, Constand’s experience took place within the statute of limitations, leaving the 2004 attack as the only accusations pursuable in criminal court.
In the time between the first trial’s hung jury and Thursday’s three-count guilty verdict, the voices of women and allies across the globe have grown louder each day in public opposition to a status quo of patriarchal dominance and unchecked sexual abuse. Lead by celebrities, mothers, daughters, the LGBTQ community, and supporters from across the political landscape, the #MeToo movement has brought attention and action to systemic abuses perpetrated by powerful men that have been swept under the rug for far too long.
But, despite the public scrutiny and boycotting of now-shamed celebrity figures like Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, and countless others, Cosby is the first man of influence brought to criminal justice in the #MeToo era.
After Thursday’s verdict was read, Cosby was released on bail to his nearby home, but will soon return to court for sentencing, with each count of assault carrying up to 10 years in prison, resulting in a possible maximum punishment of 30 years in federal lock-up. Cosby’s representation has said that they will attempt to appeal the convictions as soon as possible.