A Pennsylvania judge ruled that Bill Cosby will be classified as a “sexually violent predator” on Tuesday ahead of his sentencing in what could be his last day out of prison.
Cosby, convicted in April of sexual assault, declined to speak to the court ahead of the expected sentence from Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill.
Montgomery County prosecutors asked a judge on Monday to sentence Cosby to five to 10 years in prison for the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, saying he had shown “no remorse” for his actions. However, Cosby’s defense attorney, Joseph P. Green, asked for a sentence of house arrest, citing Cosby’s advanced age and blindness.
The state sentencing guidelines indicate 22 to 36 months in prison, plus or minus 12 months because of aggravating or mitigating circumstances. However, judges are allowed to issue sentences beyond those guidelines.
“Sexually Violent Predator” status requires lifetime registration, lifetime mandatory sex offender counseling with a treatment provider and notification of the community that a “sexually violent predator” lives in the area. It does not impact the length of the actual sentence.
If he must serve time, he could be taken into custody immediately after the judge pronounces the sentence.
Cosby was convicted in April of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and assaulting Constand at his home in 2004, in the first high-profile celebrity criminal trial of the #MeToo era.
Ahead of the sentencing, Constand wrote a five-page letter to the court explaining how Cosby’s assault — and the ensuing legal battle — had changed her life.
“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it. He robbed me of my health and vitality, my open nature and my trust in myself and others,” she wrote.
Cosby’s case tests #MeToo
Several of Cosby’s victims arrived to court for the sentencing, including supermodel Janice Dickinson. She was one of five “prior bad acts” witnesses who testified at the criminal trial that Cosby had incapacitated and then assaulted them without their consent.
Cosby arrived Monday and Tuesday with his spokespeople, Andrew Wyatt and Ebonee Benson.
Cosby did not testify at the trial and has spoken publicly only infrequently since his criminal trial began. But in April, when prosecutors claimed he had a private plane and asked the judge to revoke his bail, Cosby stood up in court and yelled, “He doesn’t have a plane, you a**hole,” referring to himself in the third person.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said that “extraordinary display of disrespect” was evidence of “who this convicted criminal defendant actually is.”
“He seemingly thinks that he hasn’t done anything wrong,” District Attorney Kevin Steele said in court. “The jury thinks otherwise.”
Green, Cosby’s attorney, asked for a sentence of house arrest and said that Cosby was not a danger to anyone.
“Eighty-one-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not a danger, unless perhaps to themselves,” he said.
Green also downplayed the outburst on Monday, saying that “Mr. Cosby’s frustration got the better of him.”
“When Mr. Steele’s witnesses at trial made outbursts, that was excused, everybody understands, but when the defendant makes one, it deserves three pages in a sentencing memorandum?”
Though the three charges each carry a maximum possible sentence of 10 years, Judge O’Neill announced Monday that the charges had been merged into one because they all stem from the same event.
Cosby has remained out of prison for the past five months on $1 million bail, and his lawyers said they plan to appeal his convictions. Cosby could also be allowed to remain out of prison until his legal appeals are resolved.
The decision is ultimately up to O’Neill, who oversaw Cosby’s 2018 retrial, as well as his mistrial a year earlier that ended in a hung jury.
Sexually violent predator status
On Monday, a prosecution expert said Cosby should be labeled a “sexually violent predator” because he has a mental disorder that involves urges toward nonconsenting women.
“The behaviors are beyond their controls, so they are urged to act on it. He is likely to reoffend,” Kristen Dudley, a psychologist and a member of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified in court.
A state panel had advised that Cosby be classified as a “sexually violent predator.” Cosby declined to participate in the evaluation by Dudley, who said she came to her determination by reviewing trial transcripts and other reports.
Defense attorneys challenged Dudley’s assessment that he would reoffend, saying that his age and blindness made it unlikely. Timothy P. Foley, a licensed psychologist who met with Cosby, testified for the defense on Tuesday that sex offense recidivism becomes “almost negligible” for people over the age of 70.
O’Neill’s ruling on Cosby’s status will not impact the ultimate sentence. Cosby’s team also argued that the sexually violent predator status was unconstitutional, but Judge O’Neill ruled against that argument on Monday.
Constand’s family speaks
During victim impact statements on Monday, Constand’s mother told the court that her family feels vindicated.
“This battle was about justice and our family feels that we have been vindicated,” Gianna Constand said. “The victims cannot be unraped, all we can do is hold the perpetrators responsible.”
Andrea Constand’s father, Andrew, told the court: “The thought of what happened to my daughter … will always be with me forever like a dark cloud hanging over my head.”
Monday’s sentencing came as Cosby’s defense team has accused O’Neill of bias and asked him to remove himself from the case — and to reverse an order that allowed the trial to happen in the first place.
At issue was a “nasty” personal conflict involving a prior district attorney, Bruce Castor, Cosby’s team argued. O’Neill last week denied the motion, calling it untimely and “wholly without merit,” court records show.
Camille Cosby, Bill Cosby’s wife, said in a statement that she had retained a former prosecutor to facilitate her efforts to “uncover the truth” regarding what she says is a feud between O’Neill and Castor.
By Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper, CNN