10:50am PT by Ashley Cullins, Eriq Gardner
Bill Cosby Convicted of Sexual Assault by Jury
Bill Cosby has been found guilty of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand in 2004. On Thursday, a Pennsylvania jury returned a verdict after 14 hours of deliberation and held him responsible for rape on all three counts brought by prosecutors.
The development comes in the retrial of Cosby, 80, once the nation's most popular entertainer with the highest-rated series on television before a downfall when several dozen women came forward to accuse him of being a serial rapist.
After the guilty verdict was read and jurors left the courtroom, Cosby launched an expletive-ridden tirade and called District Attorney Kevin Steele an "asshole." As Steele argued to revoke bail, Cosby stood up and shouted, "I'm sick of him!"
Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference with many Cosby accusers. She cried out, "Justice!" All of the women raised their hands in celebration and relief.
Last summer, in the first case, a different jury deadlocked and the court ultimately ruled the matter a mistrial. The underlying facts of the case remained the same. Costand, then 31, who worked in the Temple University athletic department, says Cosby became her mentor, and then one night while she was struggling to make a decision over the direction of her career, she went to Cosby's residence and was given a glass of wine and pills. Costand recalled her vision becoming blurred, having difficulty speaking and her legs becoming rubbery. She was led to lie down on a couch and says that Cosby's hands were all over her and that he penetrated her. She would later wake up with Cosby offering her a muffin.
Constand would later report the incident to law enforcement, who decided not to move forward with a prosecution. Afterwards, she would file a lawsuit, which would settle, but not before Cosby gave a deposition where he admitted procuring drugs for the purpose of sex with women.
For about a decade after the settlement in the civil lawsuit, the allegations against Cosby receded into the background, and he enjoyed his position as one of the nation's most influential African-Americans ever. He continued to do stand-up and even had a deal with Netflix for specials and also was set to return to NBC for a new comedy series.
But that all changed after another stand-up comedian, Hannibal Buress, spoke of Cosby as a rapist at a show. A video of the performance ignited a furor, especially as Cosby refused to discuss the allegations, and then a growing cascade of about 60 women came forward to share their stories of being allegedly drugged and raped. Many of the stories dated back decades.
The second trial was different from the first in that this jury got a taste of the wide-ranging allegations against Cosby.
Five women who accuse the comedian of drugging and assaulting them were allowed to testify as "prior bad acts" witnesses in an effort for prosecutors to prove the behavior was a pattern. Last time, only one of the women was allowed to take the stand.
Also new was testimony from a former Temple University colleague of Constand who claims the accuser privately admitted to framing Cosby in order to cash in — and a revelation that Cosby paid Constand nearly $3.4 million in 2006 to settle her civil claims.
The comedian did not take the stand during the trial, but the jury did hear portions of his old deposition. In total, testimony came from more than two dozen witnesses. Cosby attempted to convince the jury he was out of town on the night of the incident, but the jury clearly didn't buy the story.
Each of the three counts carries a prison term of up to 10 years, although the judge could impose the sentencing time concurrently.
There will likely be an appeal that is grounded in Cosby's repeated assertions that his due process rights were violated. He insists that the former district attorney made a nonprosecution agreement with him, which caused him to testify in the civil case instead of asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. Although Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for aggravated sexual assault was lengthy enough for prosecutors to file charges right before the deadline (after Cosby became an issue in the political race for DA), the comedian contends that the long delay in trying him undercut his ability to defend himself.
"We are very disappointed in the verdict," said Cosby attorney Tom Mesereau. "We don't think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything, and the fight will continue."
For now, Cosby remains free on bail until sentencing as prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that he is a flight risk. Assuming he's taken into custody while the appellate process plays out, he will be taken to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, according to the state's Department of Corrections spokesperson.
The guilty verdict sets up some big issues on appeal, but regardless of what comes next, the first monumental conviction in the #MeToo era will be long remembered for how a man who was nearly invincible in the heyday of his career lost his reputation and freedom.