More than 60 women have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. Earlier today, they all received their first legal vindication, when the jury in a retrial found the 80-year-old actor and comedian guilty of raping Andrea Constand.
The jury deliberated for two days before finding Cosby guilty of three felonies: penetration with lack of consent; penetration while unconscious; and penetration after administering an intoxicant. Each count carries a maximum sentence of ten years, but those sentences can be served concurrently.
Here is a very brief summary of Andrea Constand’s accusations from our list of women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby:
Andrea Constand worked for Temple University, Cosby’s alma mater, in 2004. Constand says that when she visited Cosby’s home to talk about career advice, he gave her herbal pills for anxiety, and then “touched her breasts and genital area, rubbed his penis against her hand,” and penetrated her “digitally.” Constand was 31 at the time.
During the retrial, Constand recounted her story for the jury. “I was kind of jolted awake and felt Mr. Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched,” she testified. “I was limp, and I could not fight him off.”
Here are some of the major bullet points from the case for both the defense and the prosecution:
• Ms. Constand remained in contact with Mr. Cosby after the alleged assault.
• Mr. Cosby says he only administered Benadryl to Ms. Constand.
• Ms. Conrad was a “con artist” who was looking for a payday from a very wealthy and very lonely man.
• An academic advisor claims Ms. Constand had spoken with her about the possibility of being able to make a lot of money by accusing a famous person of molesting her.
• Mr. Cosby had a documented history of drugging and raping women.
• Mr. Cosby admitted to giving quaaludes to women in hopes of having sex with them during his deposition in Ms. Constand’s civil suit in 2005.
• Ms. Constand says she never spoke with the academic advisor who testified against her.
• Ms. Constand says her communications with Mr. Cosby after the assault were cursory and a result of her job with Temple University, of which Bill Cosby was perhaps the most famous alumnus as well as a former member of the Board of Trustees.
• Ms. Constand’s mother called Mr. Cosby to confront him approximately a year after the rape, and he offered to pay for her daughter’s schooling, along with therapy and a trip to Florida.
It may not have been the accusations and testimony of Ms. Constand that sealed Mr. Cosby’s fate, however, as much as it was the permitted testimony of other women who shared their stories of sexual assault on the stand. In Constand’s first trial, the prosecution was only allowed to present one other woman as a witness; for the retrial, they were allowed five — and those five women told their stories to the jury over a period of several days.
One of those witnesses was supermodel Janice Dickinson, who first came forward with her accusations in 2014:
Janice said the comedian called her when she was on a job in Bali and invited her to meet him in Lake Tahoe to discuss a possible singing career. After his show, Janice said Bill went to her hotel room and offered her a glass of wine and a pill. Then, shortly before passing out, Janice claimed Bill dropped his robe and got on top of her. She continued, “The next morning I remember waking up with my pajamas off and there was semen in between my legs.”
That account differed from what she wrote about her interaction that night with Bill Cosby in her 2002 autobiography, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel. The prosecution pointed out the discrepancies in court, but Janice’s publisher testified for the defense and said Janice had informed them of the alleged rape incident, but they did not include it in the book because of legal reasons.
Heidi Thomas, Chelan Lasha, Janice Baker-Kinney, and Lise-Lotte Lublin also testified, enabling the defense to establish a signature pattern of predatory behavior. Here are brief summaries of their accusations against Mr. Cosby:
Heidi Thomas (photos above) says she met Bill Cosby at a Reno NV house for “coaching” in 1984, when Thomas was 24. Cosby offered her a glass of Chablis; the next thing Thomas remembers is waking up naked in bed with Cosby, who was “forcing himself” into her mouth.
Chelan Lasha says that Cosby promised to introduce her to modeling agents when the two met in 1986. Cosby then gave her a blue pill which made her very groggy, and sexually assaulted her before she passed out.
Janice Baker-Kinney claims Cosby drugged and raped her after she met him while waitressing at a casino in 1982. Kinney says Cosby ordered her never to talk about what had happened, and that, for years, she felt like it was her fault.
Lise-Lotte Lublin (photos above) says Cosby gave her alcohol in his hotel room in 1989, while asking her to perform “an improvisation” for him. She remembers Cosby stroking and petting her hair before she blacked out; when Lublin came to, she was at home and her car was in the driveway.
Despite all of the allegations against Bill Cosby, Andrea Constand’s case is the only one to be prosecuted criminally. Numerous civil suits against Cosby are still outstanding — many of them were delayed pending the verdict of Ms. Constand’s retrial — but all of the civil cases were brought because the statute of limitations for criminal charges had expired.
Because of this, Andrea Constand’s case had come to represent all of Cosby’s accusers, and her victory was one shared by most all of them. (Presumably, the verdict will also bolster the pending civil suits.)
Cosby was released after posting a $1 million bail, but not before he had an angry outburst in the court room. The outburst came as the prosecution argued that Cosby was a flight risk given his resources (which allegedly include a private plane), and that his bail should be revoked,
Cosby, who wasn’t permitted to take the stand in his own defense during the retrial, then did so against the prosecutor. Oddly, though, he spoke in the third person: “He doesn’t have a plane, you a**hole,” Cosby shouted.
“Enough of that,” Judge O’Neill said, before denying the prosecution’s motion to revoke bail. Judge O’Neill further stated that the court did not see Mr. Cosby as a flight risk, though did order Cosby to surrender his passport and remain at his residence until sentencing.
It’s still really hard for me to comprehend this case in its entirety. Not only is it difficult to get my mind around the fact that a high-profile celebrity was drugging and raping women for decades, and that it was literally an inside joke in the comedy world (until Hannibal Buress made it an outside joke, sparking the powder keg that led to Bill Cosby’s conviction), there is also the fact that it is Bill Cosby, a man whose public profile was for those same decades the antithesis of a serial rapist.
And let’s not forget the timing involved. Unlike the first deadlocked trial, the retrial took place after the recent #MeToo movement inspired a shift in the cultural perception of sexual assault. Before Constand’s retrial began, potential jurors were reportedly drilled over their ability to remain impartial given the cavalcade of other male celebrities now accused of similar acts.
One of Bill Cosby’s attorneys (a woman) told the jurors: “Mob rule is not due process.”
As far as Bill Cosby’s fall from grace and his legacy, the New York Times summed it up well:
The verdict now marks the bottom of a fall as precipitous as any in show business history and leaves in limbo a large slice of American popular culture from Mr. Cosby’s six-decade career as a comedian and actor. For the last few years, his TV shows, films, and recorded stand-up performances, one-time broadcast staples, have largely been shunned and with the conviction, they are likely to remain so.
Now that he has been convicted, I’m wondering if FX will be greenlighting an American Crime Story season devoted to Bill Cosby. I really cannot imagine how horrifying — and compelling — that story would be.