Bill Cosby: prosecutors ask for five- to 10-year prison sentence

Cosby’s lawyer argues prison sentence for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand would be an ‘excessive hardship’

Prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence Bill Cosby to five to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, while his lawyer argued that the 81-year-old comedian is too old and frail to serve time behind bars.

The disgraced entertainer, a once-beloved actor and comedian known as “America’s Dad”, was convicted earlier this year of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 at his home in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

He arrived at the Montgomery county courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on Monday to learn his fate at the two-day sentencing hearing.

In a brief appearance on the first day of the sentencing hearing, Constand asked the judge for “justice as the court sees fit”.

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“The jury heard me. Mr Cosby heard me,” Constand said. “All I am asking for is justice as the court sees fit.”

District attorney Kevin Steele asked for a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison.

“Nobody is above the law. Nobody,” Steele said, arguing that a tough sentence is appropriate because of the “seriousness and deviance” of Cosby’s crime and because he has refused to take responsibility for his actions: “No remorse. No remorse.”

“The proper place for the defendant is to be sentenced to state incarceration, we suggest to a maximum sentence,” he said.

Cosby, who was known for his role on The Cosby Show, was accused of giving Constand pills that caused her to pass out, and then molesting her while she was unconscious.

Of the more than 60 women who have accused the actor and comedian of sexual misconduct, Constand’s is the only case to result in criminal charges.

Cosby’s lawyer, Joseph Green, said he should be allowed to remain home on house arrest.

“Mr Cosby is not dangerous. 81-year-old blind men who are not self-sufficient are not dangerous, except perhaps to themselves,” he said, adding that prison would be an “excessive hardship” for a man of his age with no prior record.

Green urged the judge to tune out all the public outrage that has surrounded the case, and not let “all of that noise” influence his decision.

“The court of public opinion can become so frenzied that it spins out of control. This is when public opinion can swallow whole the rule of law,” he said.

Judge Steven O’Neill is expected to decide on a sentence Tuesday. He will also have to decide whether Cosby should be branded a “sexually violent predator”, a designation that would require Cosby to report his whereabouts to police and go to mandatory counseling for the rest of his life.

Constand’s parents and sister, Diana Parsons, also appeared at the sentencing hearing, describing the harsh toll the assault and its aftermath has taken on the whole family.

Parsons said her sister was a completely different person after moving back to Canada following her time living in Philadelphia and her run in with Cosby.

“I was looking forward to my crazy, adventurous sister chasing my little girls around pretending to be Cruella de Vil,” she said. “Instead, I observed a frail, timid, nervous, weak, reclusive sister.”

Dr Kristen Dudley, a psychologist and member of the Pennsylvania’s sexual offender assessment board, said the disgraced entertainer shows all the signs of a mental disorder – an abnormal and uncontrollable sexual interest in “non-consenting women.”

She recommended he be classified as a sexually violent predator, saying he is likely to offend again if given the chance.

“Mr Cosby has been engaging in this behavior for over 30 years,” she said. “Mr Cosby repeatedly engaged in grooming and sexual offending behavior with young adult females.”

The expert witness said Cosby’s conduct toward Constand bears the marks of a predator: he befriended her when she worked for Temple University, where he was a trustee and major donor and then used her trust to assault her.

“He used that friendship, he used that relationship, that trust that had developed between them to take advantage of her,” she said, adding he abused her trust “for the sole purpose of his sexual gratification”.

Earlier in the hearing, Cosby’s lawyers argued the sexual offender law is unconstitutional and overly punitive. The judge rejected that argument and upheld the law.

Cosby’s team is expected to call a psychologist who will oppose the designation on Tuesday.

Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, but both sides agreed to merge the counts for sentencing, so he faces a maximum of 10 years. State guidelines call for a sentence of about one to four years.

The former entertainer has never admitted wrongdoing. He maintains his encounters with Constand and other women were consensual. Cosby and his legal team have repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to get rid of the judge in the case, calling him biased.

O’Neill has refused to step down.

Cosby will have a chance to speak on his own behalf if he chooses. He has been under house arrest since his conviction.


Erin Durkin in Norristown

The GuardianTramp

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