Will Bill Cosby go to prison? Disgraced comedian’s fate to be decided

Bill Cosby heads into court during his 2018 trial.
PHOTO: Pool file

Bill Cosby, 81, legally blind, having seen his comedic and cultural legacy turned to ash, now could be headed to prison.

Cosby’s sentencing on three counts of involuntary indecent assault, for drugging and molesting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand in his Cheltenham mansion in 2004, is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 24 in Norristown.

Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge Steven T. O’Neill, who has rejected attacks on his character and ethics by attorneys for Cosby, could send Cosby to prison, but he could also opt for a sentence that involves no prison time. Sentencing guidelines are flexible for this type of charge, and O’Neill has broad discretion on Sept. 24.

The maximum sentence for indecent sexual assault is 10 years.

But O’Neill could sentence Cosby to house arrest or probation. Cosby’s lawyers will likely plead for leniency based on his age and other factors. Even if sentenced to prison, he will have options for appeal – and O’Neill will have to decide between ordering him remanded to state custody immediately or letting him remain free on house arrest until Cosby’s appeals are exhausted.

Experts have said Cosby likely will not not go to prison.

“What’s the cost benefit analysis to locking him up? Is he a danger to society? You’re going to have to spend a lot of time to protect him from other offenders,” Rutgers-Camden criminal justice professor Ross Allen previously told Metro. “There’s a good chance the judge is going to let him stay out while the appeals process is underway, that’s two or three years. At what point do they say the biggest punishment he’ll ever face is the loss of his legacy?”

On the other hand, Cosby has been unrepentant for his crimes, called Montco DA Kevin Steele an “a–hole” after being found guilty in April, and has accused O’Neill himself of being unethical in recent 11th-hour filings trying to get the judge recused. All of these issues could be considered by the judge in weighing an appropriate sentence.

The rise and fall of Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby has for decades been a truly inspiring American success story. But revelations of his serial sexual assaults on women stretches back to the early years of his career, and casts a grim shadow over his years starring as “America’s Dad” on one of the most popular primetime sitcoms of all time. Here’s the timeline of Cosby’s rise and precipitious fall.

Bill Cosby in the Navy in 1957. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bill Cosby in the Navy in 1957 (Wikimedia Commons)

July 12, 1937 – Bill Cosby is born in Philadelphia, son of a maid and US Navy steward. Attends Central High School and Germantown High School, but flunked out in 10th grade. Begins apprenticeship at shoe repair shop.
1956 – Cosby joins the Navy, and later completes a high-school equivalency course.
1961 – Cosby enters Temple University on a full track and field scholarship, but leaves to begin pursuing a career in stand-up, performing in Philly, New York and other cities around the country.
1963 – Cosby appears on NBC’s The Tonight Show, and continues to rise thereafter, releasing his historic “Himself” comedy concert film in 1983.
September 1984 – The Cosby shows debuts on NBC and is a national hit during its run through 1992.
January 16, 1997 – Cosby’s only son Ennis murdered in L.A. while changing a flat tire.
January 2004 – Andrea Constand, a director of administration for the Temple women’s basketball team who has befriended Cosby, goes to his Elkins Park mansion. Cosby gives her three blue pills to “relax” and a glass of wine. She later recounted waking up semi-conscious as Cosby molested her. Constand remains in contact with Cosby after moving back to Ontario, and accepts free tickets from him to take her parents to see his August 2004 comedy show in Canada.
January 2005 – Constand reports the molestation to Canadian police, who contact authorities in Montgomery County.
Feb. 22, 2005 – Montco DA Bruce Castor announces a decision not to file criminal charges.
March 2005 – Constand sues Cosby. In his deposition for the lawsuit, Cosby admits to giving women Quaaludes and Benadryl. Cosby settles in 2006 for $3.4 million.
October 17, 2014 – During a show at the Trocadero in Philadelphia, comic Hannibal Burress calls Bill Cosby a “rapist” and urges the audience to “Google it.” In the following weeks and months, the story goes viral.
November 2014 – Allegations against Cosby go “viral,” and NBC canned its planned new sitcom starring Cosby. Netflix shelves a planned new Cosby comedy special.
July 2015 – The Associated Press reports on Cosby’s confessions from the Constand deposition.
December 2015 – Newly elected Montco DA Kevin Steele indicts Cosby, just days before the 10-year statute of limitations runs out.
June 2017 – Cosby’s first trial ends in a mistrial due to a hung jury.
February 23, 2018 – Cosby’s daughter Ensa dies of renal failure while awaiting a kidney transplant.
April 26, 2018 – Cosby is convicted on three counts of indecent sexual assault after his retrial, at which five other accusers were allowed to testify.
Sept. 24, 2018 – Cosby’s sentencing is scheduled.

Bill Cosby during his 2018 retrial. (Pool photo)

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