Bill Cosby Found Guilty of Drugging, Sexually Assaulting Andrea Constand

Comedian faces up to 30 years in prison for indecent aggravated assault

A jury ruled Bill Cosby guilty of sexual assault. Credit: TRACIE VAN AUKEN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

A Pennsylvania jury found Bill Cosby guilty of drugging and sexually molesting a woman on Thursday, per the Associated Press. The comedian was being retried after his initial trial ended with deadlocked jury last June. 

Cosby was found guilty on all three counts of indecent aggravated assault against Andrea Constand in 2004: penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant. Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison on each count, The New York Times reports. 

The panel of jurors, which contained seven men and five women, needed two days to reach their decision. "You have sacrificed much," Judge Steven T. O'Neill told them, according to The Times, "but you have sacrificed in the service of justice."

Cosby's bail was set at $1 million. Kevin R. Steele, the Montgomery County District Attorney, requested that his bail be revoked so that he does not flee the U.S. on a private plane. According to The Associated Press, Cosby retorted, "He doesn't have a plane, you asshole!" "I'm sick of him [Steele]," Cosby added. Steele told reporters after the outburst that "we got to see who he really was." Judge O'Neill ruled that Cosby could be released on bail but asked him to surrender his passport. He will be sentenced in 60 to 90 days.

In a press conference following the jury's decision, Gloria Allred, the attorney for multiple women who accused Cosby of sexual assault, declared that "the #MeToo movement has arrived." "It's living in Montgomery County and throughout this nation," she added, before turning her attention to Cosby's legal team. "You tried; you failed; the personal attacks did not work," she said. "Bill Cosby, three words for you: guilty, guilty, guilty!"

Lili Bernard, who also accused Cosby of sexual assault, spoke after Allred, suggesting that the court's decision had importance consequences that spread beyond this specific case. "This is a victory not just for Andrea Constand – whom I consider to be a Joan of Arc in the war on rape – ... and not just for the 62 of us publicly known Cosby survivors whom Gloria Allred has helped give a voice," Bernard said. "It is a victory for womanhood and it is a victim for all sexual assault survivors, female and male." 

Cosby's lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., also gave a brief conference, during which he said the "fight is not over" and vowed to appeal the court's decision.

Though this was Cosby's second trial in less than a year – it took place at the same courthouse in front of the same judge – the latest round of legal proceedings were markedly different than the first. Judge O'Neill allowed five women to testify about their interactions with Cosby in addition to Constand. (Over 50 women have accused the comedian of sexual assault or misconduct, though Constand's accusation is the only one to result in criminal charges.) And Cosby was represented by a new lawyer, Mesereau Jr., who had previously represented Michael Jackson during a 2005 case when the star was accused of child molestation.

New evidence was allowed in the courtroom for the first time as well. Constand sued Cosby in civil court over a decade ago and accepted a multi-million dollar settlement. Details related to that suit, including the settlement amount ($3.38 million), were presented in the retrial.

With testimony from Constand alongside alleged victims Janice Dickinson, Chelan Lasha, Heidi Thomas, Lise-Lotte Lublin and Janice Baker-Kinney, the prosecution attempted to demonstrate that Cosby had a pattern of meeting with women, drugging them and assaulting them. In one of the trial's most dramatic moments, The New York Times reported that Lasha turned to Cosby after recounting her alleged assault and said, "You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?" Cosby's lawyers immediately asked for a mistrial, but they were overruled.

In her closing argument, prosecutor Kristen Feden told the jury, "[Cosby] is nothing like the image that he played on TV. In fact, he utilized that image and cloaked it around himself so that he could gain the trust, gain the confidences of these aspiring, unsuspecting women."

Cosby's lawyers' defensive strategy included repeated attempts to discredit Constand. Mesereau Jr. described her as a "con artist" running a "pyramid scheme." "You are going to be asking yourself during this trial, 'What does she want from Bill Cosby?'" the defense lawyer told the jury. "And you already know the answer: ‘Money, money and lots more money." 

The defense team also tried to prove that Constand and Cosby had been romantically involved, according to The New York Times, cross-examining her about phone calls made to the comedian's house in the weeks after the assault. In addition, Mesereau Jr. tried to drum up sympathy for Cosby, describing his client as "lonely and troubled" following the death of his son. Cosby's team also used flight records to suggest that the comedian was traveling during January 2004, when the assault was said to have taken place, not at home as Constand claimed.

The five other women who testified against Cosby also faced an onslaught of questions from the defense team, who repeatedly asked that the women explain why they didn't make their accusations public earlier – Thomas, for example, spoke out for the first time in 2015 – and insinuated that the witnesses were attention-hungry. When quizzed about her reason for coming forward with allegations against Cosby, Thomas replied, "I want to see a serial rapist convicted."

During the retrial, tensions also spilled over outside of the courthouse. On the trial's opening day, according to CNN, a topless protester jumped a barricade near Cosby with the words "Cosby rapist" written on her body along with the names of women who had accused the comedian of assault. She was arrested. A Cosby spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, also got into a public spat with Allred on the courthouse steps. Montgomery County subsequently issued an order saying that those steps could no longer be used for news conferences.