(PHILADELPHIA) — After years of allegations of sexual violence from dozens of women which nearly all share common denominator accusations of being drugged and molested by the world-famous entertainer, Bill Cosby is facing the prospect of walking into a Pennsylvania courthouse next week, never to emerge a free man.
For the first time since the #MeToo movement burst into an urgent national dialogue last fall about sexual harassment and violence against women — a once-extraordinarily powerful American man is facing the imminent possibility of prison time.
Earlier this year, Cosby was convicted of three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault stemming from the 2004 drugging and molestation of Andrea Constand, a former basketball coach at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. A previous trial last year ended in a hung jury and a mistrial.
Anticipation of this milestone moment has been building for months, and it’s likely to reach its zenith next week when Cosby’s sentence is handed down following two days of what could prove to be viscerally emotional public hearings.
“To see him led out in handcuffs or shackles would be quite a triumph, I think, for all of us,” said Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy model who claims that Cosby raped her in 1969.
“I think it’s going to be a really amazing experience, if that’s what we get to see, and I really hope that we do,” she continued. “I think it would mean a lot to women in general and to the victims across the country, knowing that he’s not going to get away with it, that he really is going to have to suffer the consequences of his own actions.”
“God knows we’ve been suffering the consequences of his actions all these years, so it’s only fair that he gets to feel the bite of all of this too,” she said.
Cosby’s sentencing is scheduled to include two days of pre-sentencing hearings to determine, among other issues, whether he will be designated a sexually violent predator (SVP).
But in a key ruling this week, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill rejected a prosecution bid to have additional accusers testify at the hearings — clearing a potentially lengthy portion of the proceedings that experts said could streamline the process and allow the hearings to be completed in one day, not two, which means there is the possibility that Cosby’s sentence could be handed down late on Monday.
O’Neill’s ruling was sure to have disappointed prosecutors. This week, Steele’s office had been soliciting written statements from some of the dozens of accusers who have never appeared in court, in anticipation of a favorable ruling that could allow them to share their stories in the courtroom.
From the start, Cosby has consistently insisted that any sexual encounters he had with women were consensual, and he has flatly denied ever taking advantage of any woman.
Through three teams of defense attorneys and two sensational criminal trials, the comedian and his representatives have fought tirelessly — at times ruthlessly — inside and outside of courtrooms, to defend and preserve both Cosby’s reputation and his freedom.
It’s far from clear what sentence will be handed down to Cosby and the possibilities range from probation or house arrest to years in prison.
Taking on the judge
Whether he is released on bail after his sentencing pending his promised appeal, or handcuffed on the spot, he’ll be facing a judge at whom his lawyers have repeatedly aimed pointed, deeply personal allegations about the jurist, his family and his personal life.
O’Neill has twice rejected defense motions to recuse himself: one time over his wife’s work with victims of sexual assault, and a second time earlier this week, after defense attorneys contended in a motion that perceived animosity between O’Neill and a former political rival unfairly informed his decisions in pre-trial hearings before the first criminal trial.
In a flurry of publicity launched just days before his sentencing, Cosby’s third legal team filed a motion last week seeking the judge’s recusal and his public acknowledgement of the alleged long-running feud between him and the political rival, former county district attorney Bruce Castor.
Castor has testified that while he was district attorney, he promised Cosby not to file criminal charges if the entertainer would testify in a civil lawsuit Constand had filed against him. Kevin Steele later became the county district attorney and brought charges against Cosby.
Cosby attorneys also filed a complaint about O’Neill to a state ethics board, a legal strategy accompanied by headline-making attacks on the judge’s character and integrity from Cosby’s longtime wife Camille, who slammed O’Neill as “unethical”, “arrogant” and “corrupt.”
O’Neill forcefully rejected both motions, but it was clear that the personal nature of the petitions have impacted him.
Defending both his judicial integrity and his wife’s work with sexual assault victims, O’Neill suggested that the defense, in its motion, had sought to “trivialize” his wife’s work.
“I am my own individual in making decisions here,” he said from the bench, “and my wife’s personal beliefs and professional pursuits and what she does for a living are just of no consequence.”
Appearing to choke up, O’Neill apologized to the court “if emotions become a part of [this]. But it’s a difficult thing if the parties choose to bring the families into it.”
While legal experts told ABC News that it is a defense attorney’s job to pursue every reasonable path in defending a client, they said that the strategy that Cosby’s various lawyers have pursued could prove dicey.
“In my experience, there’s sometimes a risk in attacking the judge,” said David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor. “Though that depends on who the judge is.”
“I would say that with any kind of high-profile case where a lot of people are …read more
Source:: National News