Accusers react to Bill Cosby’s guilty verdict

Women's rights activists gather outside the Montgomery County Courthouse to celebrate, after Bill Cosby was found guilty by a grand jury for all three counts of aggravated indecent assault. | EMILY SCOTT / FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — After more than 14 hours of deliberation, jurors in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial found comedian and former university trustee guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

He now faces up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced within 60-90 days.

In the midst of the #MeToo Movement, this is the first case to take down a major celebrity for taking advantage of women with aspiring careers.

The verdict comes after two weeks of testimony in the trial, in what was expected to last at least a month. Last June, a jury could not make a unanimous decision and the trial ended in a mistrial after 52 hours of deliberations.

When the verdict was announced, some of Cosby’s other accusers in the back of the courtroom let out emotional sobs. Andrea Constand, a former Temple employee, and the central accuser, remained calm and reserved.

Cosby stared blankly in front of him as the foreperson read the verdict on the three counts.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill told the jury that this trial was “an extremely difficult” case.

“Your service has risen to a level I have never seen tested before,” O’Neill said.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele requested that Cosby’s bail, which is ten percent of $1 million, be revoked, stating he is a flight risk because he has owned a private plane.

“He doesn’t have a plane, you a–hole!” Cosby screamed at Steele in the courtroom. “I’m sick of him.”

Cosby, who has already surrendered his passport, must stay in his Cheltenham home other than for court appearances.

“With his age and medical condition, I am not simply going to lock him up because of this,” O’Neill said.

Cosby, 80, is legally blind.

O’Neill said Cosby will be required to attend a pre-sentence investigation and undergo a sexually violent predator assessment.

As Cosby left the courthouse Thursday afternoon, crowds of people shouted “We love you, Bill” and other messages of support.

“I was kind of upset,” said Amy Dihan, a Norristown resident and Cosby supporter. “If you were harmed and somebody does something to you, come out and say it. Don’t wait all these years, and you want to come out and you want to say something because he is Black and has money. You don’t do that to people.”

“All they want is money,” she added. “I’ll pray for him and his family.”

ACCUSER REACTIONS

Lili Bernard, a former actress on “The Cosby Show” who alleged Cosby sexually assault her, left the courtroom in tears after the verdict. In a press conference outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, she broke down as she spoke.

“Last year, when I was sitting in the courtroom of the first trial and the verdict was hung, I left with such a tremendous sense of disappointment,” Bernard said. “It became evident to me, that the justice system is light years behind modern culture. But today, this jury has shown what the #MeToo movement is saying: that women are worthy of being believed.”

Bernard said she considers Constand to be the “Joan of Arc in the war on rape.” But she added that the guilty verdict was not just a victory for Constand, the state of Pennsylvania or the more than 60 Cosby sexual assault accusers, but that it’s a “victory for womanhood and all sexual assault survivors: female and male.”

Gloria Allred, a women’s rights attorney who is representing 33 Cosby accusers, also spoke during the press conference. As she spoke, Bernard and Victoria Valentino, another Cosby accuser, wrapped their arms around one another behind Allred.

She commended the women she represents, who began to speak out against Cosby in late 2014. Many of them appeared for the first time in the public light in New York Magazine’s cover story in July 2015.

“It took a great deal of courage,” Allred said. “In the beginning, many were not believed. We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed and not only #MeToo, but in a court of law where they were under oath, where they testified truthfully…where they were smeared…there were attempts to discredit them.”

“I am the happiest I have been about any court decision in 42 years,” Allred added.

Allred also read statements from accusers who were not attendance, like Chelan Lasha, who was one of the five “prior bad act” witnesses to testify during the trial.

In the statement, Lasha said that she finally feels the judicial system works.

“Thirty-two years of nightmares and tears are over,” Allred said.

“It’s about women, it’s about what he did, taking advantage of women,” said Bird Milliken, who is from North Philadelphia and has followed Cosby’s sexual assault cases. “It’s about time. He’s hurt so many people, and thank you to the jury in Norristown for putting him in jail and finding him guilty.”

Emily Scott
can be reached at emily.ivy.scott@temple.edu Or you can follow Emily on Twitter @emilyivyscott ‏ Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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