A woman who attended the criminal trial of Bill Cosby hoping for internet fame has been delivered something else: court-ordered 50 hours of community service.
Anitra Burrows told the court she took a few sly photos of the trial then made a secret audio recording of the defense team’s closing arguments before posting it to YouTube as “MUST SEE” material.
“I thought this was my one time to have a video go viral,” said Burrows, 37. “I didn’t mean to cause harm.”
She said she is a “woman of high moral fiber,” noting that she did not understand the serious repercussions of recording and posting material from the trial.
“I pray for the mercy of the court,” said Burrows, who did not have a lawyer in the hearing, but her father was sitting in the audience.
During the Cosby’s sexual-assault trial last month, court officials imposed a strict decorum order that required journalists and members of the public to turn their phones off before entering the courtroom. A handful of courtroom attendees were asked to leave for having their phones on, including notable civil rights attorney Gloria Allred and this WHYY reporter.
Photography and filming of any kind was also banned. Officials said the rules were an effort to ensure there was no outside interference in the high-profile case.
Montgomery County President Judge Thomas DelRicci said he is grateful authorities were able to remove Burrows’ video quickly, yet he said that “so many things could have gone wrong.”
He did not elaborate on possible repercussions.
DelRicci called Burrows’ action “selfish,” “inappropriate” and a deliberate violation of the court-approved decorum order, not just a lapse of judgment, which is how Burrows characterized the sneaky recordings to the judge.
Although being held in contempt of court in Pennsylvania could carry jail time, DelRicci said Burrows’ cooperation with authorities and willingness to take responsibility were points in her favor.
Still, since Cosby is scheduled to be re-tried in November, the judge said he does not want the public to think the court will be lenient with violators of courtroom rules.
DelRicco imposed a punishment of 50 hours of community service to be completed by year’s end and prohibited her from attending Cosby’s next trial.
After the hearing, Thomas McGoldrick, deputy district attorney in Montgomery County, said he does not think Burrows’ actions will affect who is allowed in to watch Cosby’ next trial.
“A trial is a public event,” he said. “Any member of the public is allowed to come watch any criminal trial, and that’s how it should be. That hasn’t changed.”
Although McGoldrick said authorities deleted the two-hour recording from Burrows’ phone and made sure she scrubbed it from her personal computer, it may just be bouncing around someplace online.
“We’re reasonably sure that it’s not floating out there,” McGoldrick said. “But I can’t say 100 percent.”