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Will Bill Cosby, 81, go to prison? A judge is set to decide | TribLIVE.com
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Will Bill Cosby, 81, go to prison? A judge is set to decide

The Associated Press
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John Minchillo/Invision/AP
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, comedian Bill Cosby performs at the Stand Up for Heroes event in New York. Cosby is facing the start of a sentencing hearing on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at which a judge will decide how to punish the 81-year-old comedian who was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University athletics employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. (John Minchillo/Invision/AP, File)
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FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2014, file photo, comedian and Navy veteran Bill Cosby speaks during a Veterans Day ceremony in Philadelphia. Cosby’s sentencing hearing Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 is set to start with testimony about his sex offender evaluation and a fierce debate over whether he should be deemed a 'sexually violent predator.' The stakes are high given the lifetime counseling, community alerts and public shaming the designation would trigger.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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FILE - In this April 26, 2018 file photo, Bill Cosby, center, leaves the the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa., after being convicted of drugging and molesting a woman. Cosby is facing the start of a sentencing hearing on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at which a judge will decide how to punish the 81-year-old comedian who was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University athletics employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
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Attorney, Gloria Allred, center, along with her clients, Chelan Lasha, left and Lise-Lotte Lublin, right, Bill Cosby accusers, talk to the media during a press conference at the Le Meridien Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. Cosby is due in court Monday, Sept. 24, for a two-day sentencing hearing that follows his conviction in the spring on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
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Attorney, Gloria Allred, center, along with her clients, Chelan Lasha, left and Lise-Lotte Lublin, right, Bill Cosby accusers, takes questions from reporters during a press conference at the Le Meridien Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. Cosby is due in court Monday, Sept. 24, for a two-day sentencing hearing that follows his conviction in the spring on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
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FILE - In this Thursday, May 2, 2002 file photo, members of Bill Cosby's television family, the Huxtables, gather in NBC's Today show studio for an interview with co-host Katie Couric, in New York. From left are Sabrina Le Beauf, Tempest Bledsoe, Cosby, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Phylicia Rashad, Raven Symone and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Cosby is facing the start of a sentencing hearing on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, at which a judge will decide how to punish the 81-year-old comedian who was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University athletics employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby faced the start of a sentencing hearing Monday at which a judge will decide how to punish the 81-year-old comedian who blazed the trail for other black entertainers and donated millions to black causes but preyed on at least one young woman and perhaps many more.

Cosby was the first celebrity to go to trial in the #MeToo era and could be the first to go to prison — perhaps for the rest of his days — after being convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

Judges can’t help being influenced a little by the “optics” of a case — that it, how it is going to look to the public, said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s Kline School of Law.

In this instance, “the judge is going to get flak,” he said. “The judge is going to get less flak if they see Bill Cosby walk out in cuffs.”

At the end of the potentially two-day hearing, Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill could sentence Cosby to as many as 30 years in prison or send him home on probation. The state guidelines for someone like Cosby, with no prior convictions, call for about one to four years behind bars.

“Obviously, the allegations are serious, and, except for his age and poor health, would normally warrant some jail time,” said Samuel Stretton, a veteran defense lawyer not connected to the case.

Cosby is legally blind and uses a cane, something his lawyers are certain to point out along with his achievements and philanthropy. Prosecutors hoped to call some of his other accusers to paint Cosby as a sexual predator deserving of prison.

Whatever the sentence, Cosby is likely to be deemed a sexually violent predator and will have to undergo monthly counseling the rest of his life, in prison or out. Neighbors and schools will be warned he is living nearby.

In the years since Constand first went to police in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.

Two of those women, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Chelan Lasha, said Sunday at a Philadelphia news conference that they want prison for him and hope they get to make impact statements at the sentencing.

“I really think it’s important that he spend some time behind bars,” said Lublin, who said Cosby assaulted her when she was 23 in 1989. “At some point, he should acknowledge what he’s done, and do the time for the crime.”

Monday morning, just a few hours before the sentencing hearing was to begin, Constand tweeted Ephesians 4:26, a Bible verse about letting go of anger: “Be wrathful, but do not sin; do not let the sun set while you are still angry; do not give the Devil an opportunity.”

Cosby, who grew up in public housing in Philadelphia, became the first black actor to star in a prime-time TV show, “I Spy,” in 1965. He remained a Hollywood A-lister for much of the next half-century, hitting his peak in the 1980s with the top-rated “Cosby Show” as the warm, wisecracking dad, Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

But behind the scenes, according to testimony, the married star sought out sexual encounters with young women, including actresses he offered to mentor, models seeking a part on his shows, and flight attendants he met in his travels. He also acknowledged obtaining quaaludes in the 1970s to give to women before sex.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, which Lublin, Lasha and Constand have done.

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