Victim impact statements, closing arguments presented at Cosby sentencing

The court heard testimony to determine if Bill Cosby can be classified as a sexually violent predator, victim statements and closing arguments.

Bill Cosby walks into the Montgomery County courthouse on the first day of his sentencing on Monday. Cosby faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for sexual assault. | HANNAH BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby appeared at the Montgomery County Courthouse for sentencing on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven T. O’Neill merged Cosby’s charges — for which he was found guilty by a jury in April — into one aggravated indecent assault charge. The former Temple University trustee will be sentenced Tuesday on the single charge, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

At least 15 of Cosby’s other accusers, like model Janice Dickinson and actress Lisa Christie, and prominent attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing 33 victims in a California lawsuit against Cosby, attended Monday’s proceedings.

The disgraced comedian was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, the former director of operations for Temple women’s basketball team, in 2004. Cosby was a university trustee at the time, and was later represented by Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor in a 2005 civil suit brought by Constand.

On Monday, O’Neill heard testimony to determine if Cosby can be classified as a sexually violent predator, which would force him to register on a sex offender’s list. Cosby cannot be sentenced until O’Neill makes this decision, which won’t come until Cosby’s defense’s psychologist testifies on Tuesday.

Clinical psychologist and member of the Sex Offender Assessment Board Dr. Kristen Dudley testified for the prosecution Monday that Cosby qualifies as a sexually violent predator because he engaged in predatory behavior by befriending Constand with the intent of assaulting her. Dudley also said Cosby could be diagnosed with paraphilia, a mental abnormality.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines paraphilia as “intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest” outside of typical sexual arousal, defined as “genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physiologically mature, consenting human partners.”

The court also heard victim impact statements from Andrea Constand’s family, including her mother Gianna Constand, her father Andrew Constand and her sister Diana Parsons. Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and defense attorney Joseph Green Jr. also gave closing arguments.

Andrea Constand did not read her victim impact statement but instead read a short statement to the judge.

“You read my testimony, my victim impact statement, the jury heard me, and Mr. Cosby heard me,” she said. “All I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”

Parsons said her sister deserves justice because of the pain the two trials have put her through.

“I think, ‘How does she handle being called a pathological liar… a con artist…a drug addict…a racist individual…a gold digger? How do people say, ‘She pulled off her plan?’” Parsons said. “How will she ever trust again?”

In June 2017, Cosby was tried on the same sexual assault charges, but the jury was unable to decide unanimously on the charges, so O’Neill declared a mistrial.

In his closing argument, Green painted Cosby as a harmless, elderly man who is incapable of committing another instance of sexual assault.

“Mr. Cosby comes from a youth of hardship and racism,” Green said. “Mr. Cosby is not dangerous. Eighty-one-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not dangerous.”

He added that public opinion should not be taken into account during sentencing, referring to the possible influence of the #MeToo movement.

“The court of public opinion can become so frenzied, it can spin out of control,” he said. “This is when public opinion swallows whole the court of law.”

Steele said Cosby deserves the highest sentence: 10 years in state prison, and an additional psycho-sexual exam, which Cosby refused to complete prior to sentencing. He refuted the defense’s argument that Cosby is too old to sexually assault someone again in the future.

“To say that he’s too old, to say that he should get a pass because it’s taken this long to catch up with what this guy’s done, they’re asking for a ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card,’” Steele said.

Steele said the biggest reason he’s requesting the maximum sentence is because Cosby feels no guilt surrounding his assault.

“He seemingly doesn’t recognize that’s wrong,” he said. “It’s wrong to drug somebody and sexually assault them.”

“There was no acceptance of responsibility for his actions,” Steele added. “No remorse. No remorse.”

Cosby sat in silence throughout the proceedings. His wife, Camille Cosby, who has disputed the fairness of the trial in recent days, was not present.

Both the prosecution and defense will have a chance to speak again after the defense’s psychologist testifies tomorrow and O’Neill reaches a decision about Cosby’s status.

Since being found guilty, Cosby’s team asked O’Neill to recuse himself from the sentencing, the New York Times reported. Cosby’s team claimed that a former political race against Bruce Castor, a witness for the defense in the 2016 trial, was a conflict of interest.

The prosecution attempted to admit victim impact statements before sentencing from several of Cosby’s other accusers who were not directly involved. O’Neill denied the motion because there was no law allowing the consideration of uncharged conduct during sentencing.

Cosby accusers who were unable to present statements in court will present them after sentencing on Tuesday at Savior Hall on East Airy Street. Cosby is the first high-profile celebrity to be criminally charged with sexual assault amid the #MeToo movement.

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