Cosby attorneys vow to appeal guilty verdict: ‘The fight is not over’

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Attorneys for Bill Cosby are vowing to appeal his conviction by a Montgomery County jury Thursday afternoon of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman who considered him as a mentor.

And the district attorney who twice tried Cosby intends to do his best to make sure that the entertainer pay not only for his crime but for the costs of the two trials, sequestering the juries and other expenditures associated with the case.

Found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault, the comic legend faces the possibility of years of imprisonment for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand 14 years ago on a couch in his Cheltenham home.

As the forewoman read the decision Thursday afternoon, a gasp went up from the public benches in the courtroom.

District attorney Kevin Steele asked Judge Steven T. O’Neill to have Cosby detained prior to sentencing, citing his unlimited wealth and potential to flee.

“He has a plane, your honor,” said Steele.

“He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole!” Cosby yelled.

The judge ruled that Cosby will remain free on bail until he is sentenced in 30 to 60 days, but he must not leave his house.

“The fight is not over,” declared the entertainer’s lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, outside the Norristown courthouse.

As he walked toward a waiting vehicle, Cosby was lobbed with questions.

“Mr. Cosby, are you prepared to spend time in prison, sir?”

Bill Cosby departs after his sexual assault trial, Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era. (Matt Slocum/AP Photo)

 

Neither Cosby nor his spokesman answered.

Reactions to the guilty verdict were swift.

Temple University officials may rescind Cosby’s honorary degree, philly.com reported.

A TV network announced it would yank all reruns of “The Cosby Show.”

And attorney Gloria Allred, who represented three of the women who testified against the entertainer as well as dozens of others who say Cosby assaulted them, clearly relished the opportunity to call out Mesereau, a noted Los Angeles attorney, and Cosby.

“To Tom Mesereau, you tried. You failed,” she said. “To Bill Cosby, three words: guilty, guilty, guilty.”

“This is an her-storic result. This was her story. Not his story, not history. But the story of her,” Allred said. “The story of Andrea Constand, the story of all of those who took that risk against a rich, powerful, famous man.”

Constand hailed for ‘quiet courage’

At a news conference about an hour after the verdict was announced, Steele saluted Constand as the “most important person” in bringing Cosby to justice.

“She’s shown courage and resilience in the face of attacks on her and her family,” said Steele, nodding toward Constand who stood with her attorney, Dolores Troiani, at her side.

Cosby, said Steele, spent “decades preying on women, drugging and sexually assaulting them.

“He used his celebrity, his wealth and his network of supporters to conceal his crimes.”

Troiani thanked prosecutors and investigators for their diligence and praised Constand for her courage. “Although justice was delayed, it was not denied,” she said.

Supporters of Constand and the other 50-plus women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them celebrated the guilty verdict as long-overdue.

Actress Lili Bernard, who appeared in the final season of “The Cosby Show,” talked with reporters outside the courthouse in Norristown.

“Today, this jury has shown what the #MeToo movement is saying — that women are worthy of being believed,” she said. “I thank the jury. I thank the prosecution.”

O’Neill told the panel of seven men and five women that it was “an extraordinarily difficult case.” He says the jurors “sacrificed in the service of justice.”

Attorney Lisa Bloom, who represented accuser Janice Dickinson, tweeted out her thanks.

“Thank you, Montgomery County prosecutors and police. Andrea Constand. Janice Dickinson. All the women who testified.”

Bloom, the daughter of Allred, said her “fighter mama … was attacked and smeared by the defense throughout the trial. I knew that would backfire. Three cheers for you, Mom, and your relentless insistence on justice for women.”

The #MeToo moment

“The Cosby verdict is a long-awaited and symbolic victory for many survivors of sexual violence. It brings hope that justice can be served when victims are finally ready to enter the court system, that it is possible for the truth to be heard, even if it is years after the assault,” said Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“The thousands of individual voices within the #MeToo movement have created a powerful chorus that is being heard.”

The seven men and five women on the panel sat in the jury box of the Montgomery County Courthouse and listened to more than two weeks of testimony from 25 witnesses, some crying on the stand recounting how Cosby attacked them while they were in drug-induced stupors, and others who attempted to discredit Constand by detailing instances of supposed deceit and inconsistencies.

“This case is about trust,” Kevin Steele told jurors in his opening remarks. “This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to the sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.”

Constand, the only Cosby accuser whose case has triggered criminal charges, took the stand for the prosecution over two days, as she did during the first trial.

In addition to Constand, five women who have never before confronted Cosby in a criminal courtroom took the witness stand. They told the jury that the entertainer drugged and molested them in the 1980s, stories that first came to light after prosecutors reopened Cosby’s criminal case in 2015. That led more than 60 women to lodge sexual misconduct allegations against the television icon once known as “America’s Dad.”

“You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?” said accuser Chelan Lasha from the stand, locking eyes with Cosby, who has remained largely impassive throughout the trial.

“I want to see a serial rapist convicted,” another accuser, Heidi Thomas, told the court, as spectators gasped at the statement.

Through it all, jurors had a front-row seat to the lawyerly slugfest that pitted three prosecutors from suburban Philadelphia against a throng of defense attorneys led Mesereau, who aggressively depicted Constand as a “con artist.”

“You’re going to be saying to yourself in this trial, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby,’ ” Mesereau said to jurors during opening statements. “You already know the answer: money, money and lots more money.”

To bolster this argument, the defense called star witness Margo Jackson, who used to work with Constand at Temple University. Jackson was banned from testifying during the first trial, but the judge allowed her in this time. Jackson told jurors that Constand once confided in her that she had a plan to frame a wealthy celebrity with a made-up sexual assault claim “to get that money.”

Prosecutor Kristen Feden seized on the characterization of Constand as a scheming con artist during closing arguments, saying it was Cosby who deployed his wholesome TV image to gain the trust of women he planned to incapacitate and assault.

She strode across the courtroom pointing inches away from Cosby as he sat wide-eyed at the defense table.

“The perpetrator of that con is this man!” she yelled. “Sitting right here. This is the man.”

When Constand took the witness stand, she told the jury that, one night in January 2004, Cosby gave her three blue pills he called “friends” to relax her. Instead, they rendered her defenseless, lapsing in and out of consciousness. Constand told jurors she was “jolted awake” by the feeling of his fingers in her vagina as she lay on a couch in Cosby’s home.

A couple of months later, she told the court, she attempted to confront Cosby about it.

“I wanted to know what pills he gave to me, and why he did that to me,” Constand said. “He stumbled on his words. He said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He said, ‘I thought you had an orgasm,’ and I had not. He would not answer my questions.”

Constand told the court that enduring two publicity-heavy criminal trials “tore my family apart,” yet when asked by prosecutor Kristen Feden why she agreed to take the stand again, Constand replied, “for justice.”

Constand faced withering questions from Mesereau on cross examination, as a part of a multi-pronged defense focused on shaking her credibility and that of the other witnesses. He probed Constand as to why she stayed in touch with Cosby after the incident, portrayed her as a desperate, cash-strapped pyramid scheme participant. Constand was also pressed about the nearly $3.4 million Cosby paid her in a 2006 civil settlement, which was previously confidential.

Cosby’s lawyers also suggested to jurors that the incident could not have happened the way she said it did, even hinting that there is a chance Cosby was not in the Philadelphia area around the time Constand said she was assaulted. The defense did not issue an outright denial of the episode at the heart of the alleged crime. Cosby has admitted that he and Constand had sexual contact in his house around 2004, but which he has long maintained it was consensual.

Legal observers have called the Cosby retrial a major test of the effects of the #MeToo movement, the wave of allegations of sexual assault lodged against prominent media figures that erupted between Cosby’s first and second trials.

During jury selection, the judge asked hundreds of potential jurors whether their feelings about #MeToo would get in the way of being a fair fact-finder in the Cosby case. Almost none said they were unaware of the cultural movement. Prosecutors never mentioned #MeToo to jurors during trial. But the defense team made an unsubtle attack on it when lawyer Kathleen Bliss told the panel that “when you join a movement based mostly on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damn thing,” adding that “mob rule is not due process.” She compared the dozens of accusations against Cosby to a “witch hunt,” and a “lynching.”

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