NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era, completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
In Connecticut, Wesleyan University President Michael Roth asked the Board of Trustees to revoke Cosby’s honorary degree that was awarded in 1987.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a–hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!”
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”
Cosby’s retrial took place against the backdrop of #MeToo, the movement against sexual misconduct that has taken down powerful men in rapid succession, among them Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Sen. Al Franken.
The jurors all indicated they were aware of #MeToo but said before the trial they could remain impartial. Cosby’s lawyers slammed #MeToo, calling Cosby its victim and likening it to a witch hunt or a lynching.
After failing to win a conviction last year, prosecutors had more courtroom weapons at their disposal for the retrial. The other accusers’ testimony helped move the case beyond a he-said, she-said, allowing prosecutors to argue that Cosby was a menace to women long before he met Constand. Only one other accuser was permitted to testify at Cosby’s first trial.
Cosby’s new defense team, led by Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, launched a highly aggressive attack on Constand and the other women.
Their star witness, a longtime Temple employee, testified that Constand once spoke of setting up a prominent person and suing. Constand sued Cosby after prosecutors initially declined to file charges, settling with him for nearly $3.4 million over a decade ago.
“You’re dealing with a pathological liar,” Mesereau told the jury.
His colleague on the defense team, Katheen Bliss, derided the other accusers as home-wreckers and suggested they made up their stories in a bid for money and fame.
But Cosby himself had long ago confirmed sordid revelations about drugs and extramarital sex.
In a deposition he gave over a decade ago as part of Constand’s lawsuit, Cosby acknowledged he had obtained quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with, “the same as a person would say, ‘Have a drink.'”
The sedative was a popular party drug before the U.S. banned it more than 30 years ago.
Cosby also acknowledged giving pills to Constand before their sexual encounter. But he identified them as the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl and insisted they were meant to help her relax.
The entertainer broke racial barriers as the first black actor to star in a network show, “I Spy,” in the 1960s. He created the top-ranked “Cosby Show” two decades later. He also found success with his “Fat Albert”
animated TV show and served as pitchman for Jello-O pudding.
Later in his career, he attracted controversy for lecturing about social dysfunction in poor black neighborhoods, railing against young people stealing things and wearing baggy pants.
It was Cosby’s reputation as a public moralist that prompted a federal judge, acting in response to a request from The Associated Press, to unseal portions of the deposition.
Its release helped destroy the “Cosby Show” star’s career and good-guy image. It also prompted authorities to reopen the criminal investigation, and he was charged in late 2015.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission. Constand has done so.
Here’s more background and a timeline:
Birth date: July 12, 1937
Birth place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Birth name: William Henry Cosby Jr.
Father: William Henry Sr., US Navy mess steward
Mother: Anna (Hite) Cosby
Marriage: Camille (Hanks) Cosby (January 25, 1964-present)
Children: Evin, 1976; Ensa, 1973-2018; Ennis, 1969-1997; Erinn, 1966; Erika, 1965
Education: Attended Temple University, 1961-1962; University of Massachusetts at Amherst, M.A, 1972; University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Ed.D, 1977
Military service: US Navy, 1956-1960
Spokesperson for Jell-O for 25 years, beginning in 1974.
All of his children have names beginning with an E, to represent excellence.
Nominated for 17 Grammy Awards and has won nine.
Nominated for eight Primetime Emmy Awards and has won four.
More than 50 women have publicly accused Cosby of raping or assaulting them over the past 40 years. The comedian has vehemently denied wrongdoing.
1956 – Drops out of high school and enlists in the US Navy. During his time in the Navy, Cosby earns his high school diploma through a correspondence course.
1961 – Wins a track and field scholarship to Temple University. While at school, he gets his first job telling jokes while tending bar.
1962 – Leaves school and moves to New York City to work as a comedian at the Gaslight Café.
1963 – Releases his first recording, “Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right!”
1964 – Releases his second album, “I Started Out as a Child,” which wins a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance.
1965-1968 – Plays Alexander Scott, an undercover CIA agent, on the NBC show “I Spy.” Wins three Best Actor Emmy Awards in a row from 1966 to 1968.
1969 – Wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety or Musical Program for “The Bill Cosby Special.”
1969-1971 – Plays Chet Kincaid, a physical education teacher, on the NBC program, “The Bill Cosby Show.”
1972-1984 – “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” runs on television.
September 20, 1984 – “The Cosby Show” debuts on NBC. Cosby plays Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.
1984-1992 – “The Cosby Show” runs on NBC.
October 3, 1992 – Is inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
1996-2000 – Stars on the television sitcom “Cosby.”
January 16, 1997 – Cosby’s only son, Ennis, is robbed and murdered on a Los Angeles highway after he stops to fix a flat tire.
July 1997 – Autumn Jackson, who claimed to be Cosby’s illegitimate daughter, is found guilty of attempting to extort $40 million dollars from him. She is later sentenced to 26 months in prison.
July 1998 – Mikhail Markhasev is convicted of Ennis Cosby’s murder. He is later sentenced to life in prison.
December 6, 1998 – Receives the Kennedy Center Honors.
July 9, 2002 – Is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
2003 – Receives the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the Emmy Awards.
January 2005 – Former Temple University employee Andrea Constand alleges that Cosby drugged and fondled her in January 2004.
February 2005 – Authorities announce that Cosby will not be charged in the Constand case, citing insufficient evidence.
March 2005 – Constand files a civil suit against Cosby. They settle out of court for $3.38 million, and the case is dismissed in November 2006.
October 26, 2009 – Is awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
November 23, 2013 – Cosby’s first television comedy special in 30 years airs on Comedy Central.
November 14, 2014 – CNN interviews Barbara Bowman, who alleges that Cosby assaulted her a number of times. Cosby’s attorney, John Schmitt, states that the allegations are “decade-old” and “discredited.”
November 17, 2014 – Journalist and publicist Joan Tarshis tells CNN that Cosby sexually assaulted her 45 years ago, when she was a teenager. Tarshis joins a handful of women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault — allegations the comedian’s attorneys have repeatedly said are untrue. Cosby has never been prosecuted.
November 18, 2014 – Former supermodel Janice Dickinson accuses Bill Cosby of sexual assault, telling “Entertainment Tonight” in an interview that the comedian raped her. Cosby’s attorney Martin Singer calls Dickinson’s story “a lie” and said it contradicts her own autobiography and a 2002 interview she did with the New York Observer.
November 26, 2014 – Cosby’s alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, cuts ties with the comedian, stating, “Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst’s capital campaign. He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity for the university.”
December 1, 2014 – Cosby resigns from Temple University’s board of trustees, a position that he has held for 32 years.
December 2, 2014 – Judy Huth files a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that Cosby sexually assaulted her in 1974, when she was 15 years old.
December 4, 2014 – The Navy revokes Cosby’s title of honorary chief petty officer.
December 4, 2014 – Cosby’s attorney Martin D. Singer says that Huth’s claims are “absolutely false” and accuses her of engaging in extortion after Cosby rejected her “outrageous demand for money in order not to make her allegations public.”
December 10, 2014 – Tamara Green, who has accused Cosby of sexually assaulting her in 1970, files a defamation lawsuit against Cosby, claiming she was called a liar after coming forward with allegations.
December 16, 2014 – Citing the statute of limitations, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office declines to charge Cosby regarding Huth’s 1974 sexual assault allegation.
January 2015 – Linda Traitz tells CNN that she and fellow accuser Therese Serignese are joining a defamation lawsuit against Cosby that was originally filed by Tamara Green.
February 12, 2015 – Two more women accuse Cosby of sexual assault.
May 20, 2015 – Janice Dickinson sues Cosby for defamation.
July 6, 2015 – Newly unsealed documents reveal Bill Cosby has admitted to getting prescription Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with. The documents, dating back to 2005, stem from a civil lawsuit filed by Constand.
July 25, 2015 – Spelman College, a historically black women’s school in Atlanta, announces it has officially terminated a professorship endowed by Cosby and his wife Camille.
December 14, 2015 – Cosby countersues the seven women who had sued him for defamation, claiming they actually defamed him. Cosby is seeking unspecified damages and public retractions from the seven women: Green, Serignese, Traitz, Moritz, Bowman, Tarshis and Leslie.
December 21, 2015 – Cosby sues model, Beverly Johnson for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims that she falsely accused him of attempted rape.
December 30, 2015 – Cosby is charged in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault in the case of Constand, who accused the TV star of assaulting her in 2004.
January 6, 2016 – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announces that Cosby won’t be charged in two cases. According to a charge evaluation sheet, prosecutors think neither of the two allegations could have resulted in charges within the statute of limitations.
February 19, 2016 – Cosby’s defamation lawsuit against Johnson is voluntarily dismissed.
December 5, 2016 – A judge rules that Cosby’s 11-year-old deposition — in which he admitted to extramarital affairs and giving some women drugs in order to have sex with them — is admissible in his upcoming criminal trial in 2017.
December 13-14, 2016 – A pre-trial hearing is held to determine whether the testimony of 13 women who say Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them from 1964 to 2002 may be included as evidence in his criminal case.
February 16, 2017 – A federal judge in Massachusetts dismisses a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby by Katherine McKee, an actress who claimed he raped her in 1974, according to court documents.
February 24, 2017 – A Pennsylvania judge orders only one additional accuser will be allowed to testify in Cosby’s upcoming criminal sexual assault trial to demonstrate the comedian’s alleged pattern of criminal conduct.
May 16, 2017 – In an interview with Michael Smerconish on the SiriusXM POTUS channel, Cosby says that he does not plan to testify on his own behalf during his upcoming assault trial.
June 17, 2017 – After six days and more than 53 hours of jury deliberations, Cosby’s aggravated indecent assault case ends in a mistrial after a Pennsylvania jury of seven men and five women are unable to come to a unanimous decision. Prosecutors immediately announce they will retry the case.
January 22, 2018 – Cosby performs at the LaRose Jazz Club in Philadelphia. This is his first stand-up event since May 2015.
February 23, 2018 – Cosby’s daughter Ensa, 44, dies of renal disease.
March 15, 2018 – A Pennsylvania judge rules that five women will be allowed to testify during the comedian’s new trial for allegedly assaulting Constand in 2004. Prosecutors wanted 19 accusers to take the witness stand but the judge said that they could choose five out of the group. During the first trial, just one other accuser testified against the comedian.
April 5, 2018 – The jury is seated in Cosby’s new trial, with seven men and five women.
April 26, 2018 – Found guilty of all charges.