Prosecutors to judge: Send Bill Cosby to prison for 10 years
NORRISTOWN — Prosecutors asked a Montgomery County judge Monday to send Bill Cosby to prison for 10 years, arguing that he has shown no remorse for using his celebrity status to befriend and sexually assault Andrea Constand.
Cosby’s own lawyers, however, asked the judge to show mercy on the 81-year-old entertainer, arguing that he should not serve a prison term because he poses no danger to the public.
Judge Steven T. O’Neill is expected to make his decision Tuesday, determining if Cosby will spend perhaps the rest of his life behind bars or return home to the Cheltenham estate where he has been on house arrest since a jury convicted him in April.
Cosby will be sentenced on one count of aggravated indecent assault; lawyers agreed to merge the three counts into one, making District Attorney Kevin Steele’s sentencing request the maximum penalty that the judge could give.
“This is about a person who put himself in a situation of being a mentor but we know that he had other intentions right from the beginning,” Steele said of Cosby, who met ant offered to mentor Constand when she was a Temple University employee.
The lawyers’ arguments capped off the first day of what is expected to be a two-day proceeding in Norristown. O’Neill also listened to statements from Constand and her family, and earlier heard a psychologist assert that Cosby should be designated as a “sexually violent predator” in part because he has a personality disorder that makes him inclined to engage in sex with non-consenting women.
Pennsylvania law gives great latitude to judges to determine a sentence, but state guidelines suggest a term of 22 months to three years in prison for Cosby.
State sentencing data show that two years ago, about 80 percent of defendants who, like Cosby, were convicted of aggravated indecent assault but had no prior record received a state prison sentence.
Cosby, wearing a dark suit, sat quietly between his lawyers and leaned forward in his seat, appearing to pay close attention to the proceedings. His wife, Camille, who has voiced support for her husband since his conviction, did not attend. Defense lawyers called no character witnesses to testify on Cosby’s behalf.
Joseph Green, one of Cosby’s lawyers, urged O’Neill to avoid influence from the court of public opinion when considering a just sentence. He spoke of Cosby’s childhood in North Philadelphia, and about his career as a comedian in which he sought to unite people of different races. Now, he said, Cosby is simply a frail old man.
“Mr. Cosby is not dangerous,” Green said. “Eighty-one-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not dangerous.”
Several of Cosby’s accusers showed up for the hearing, greeting each other with hugs. Andrea Constand, the former Temple University employee whom he was convicted of drugging and assaulting, sat in court with her sister and parents. Three women who testified at Cosby’s trial this year — Chelan Lasha, Lise Lotte Lublin and Janice Dickinson — sat behind Constand.
During her brief statement to the judge Monday afternoon, Constand reminded him of her testimony during both his trials, and referenced her victim impact statement.
“The jury heard me. Mr. Cosby heard me,” she said. “And now all I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”
Earlier, a psychologist who evaluated Cosby told the judge that she classified his behavior as predatory, and said he was likely to re-offend.
Psychologist Kristen F. Dudley, a member of the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Assessment Board, said Cosby declined to let her interview him, so she instead reviewed “boxes of documents,” including all police reports in the case and the transcripts of both of Cosby’s trials, to complete her evaluation.
She noted Cosby “repeatedly engaged in grooming and sexual offending behavior with young adult females,” and said for individuals with a sexual disorder like his, “behavior is demonstrated to be beyond their control — they are inclined, urged, to act upon this.”
The defense lawyer, Green, questioned whether Cosby was likely to commit more crimes. “There’s no reasonable prospect than an 81-year-old blind man is likely to reoffend,” he said.
Dudley disagreed. “Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” she said.
Cosby’s lawyers had argued that the sexually violent predator hearing should not be held because the state law regarding sex offender registration is unconstitutional.
But O’Neill proceeded with the hearing. If he rules that Cosby is a sexually violent predator, the entertainer will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and attend monthly counseling.
O’Neill said he will make that ruling Tuesday, after hearing testimony from an expert offered by defense lawyers.
And then, he is expected to announce his sentence.