Bill Cosby arrives in court on April 26, 2018.
Matt Slocum / AP
Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and raping Andrea Constand at his Pennsylvania home in 2004, marking a new fall from grace for a comedian who built his reputation as America's Dad.
The jury for Cosby's first rape trial was unable to reach a verdict last year, however, this time, the jury of seven men and five women voted after about 14 hours of deliberation to convict the 80-year-old comedian on three counts of sexual assault after prosecutors were allowed to call five additional accusers to the stand.
Cosby, who was on the edge of his seat as the verdict was read aloud to gasps in the courtroom, now faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars if he is given the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Cosby, who is expected to file an appeal, was allowed to leave courtroom at least temporarily after lashing out at prosecutors who told the judge they wanted him taken into custody, yelling that he “doesn't have a plane you asshole!”
Minutes earlier, those inside the courtroom, many of them Cosby accusers who had been attending the trial from the start, emerged outside in tears and embraces.
Lili Bernard, who alleges Cosby drugged and raped her in the 1990s and has attended every day of the trial, told BuzzFeed News that a guilty verdict represents “a real shift in humanity, in rape culture. Experts had said early on that the effect of the #MeToo movement would likely play a significant factor in the deliberations.
“I know that it takes a tremendous force to convict a celebrity,” she said, adding that people appear to be “wisening up to the fact that celebrities are just people with a lot of faults, and that a criminal can be disguised as beloved father figure, dad of all dads.”
Cosby never denied having sexual contact with Constand, but insisted it was consensual.
Andrea Constand, main accuser in the Bill Cosby trial, leaves courtroom on April 25, 2018.
Corey Perrine / AP
His defense team tried to paint Constand as a con artist who showed romantic interest in the comedian in order to concoct false assault allegations and secure a nearly $3.4-million civil settlement, at one point calling her a “pathological liar.” But for the retrial, prosecutors were able to call on five other accusers who testified that they too were drugged by Cosby. Four of them, including model Janice Dickinson, said they were also sexually assaulted.
More than 50 women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over the span of decades, but Constand’s allegation was the only criminal case to be brought, in large part because most of the accusations were too old to prosecute.
No criminal charges were brought at the time of Constand’s assault in 2004, and after she settled her civil lawsuit the next year in exchange for her silence, that’s where it would have likely stayed. But a decade later, a judge unsealed Cosby’s transcript for the deposition he gave in the civil case. In it, he admitted to giving women quaaludes, a power sedative, as a prelude to sex. Dozens of accusers pointed to the transcript as vindication of their claims, and public pressure to file charges in Constand’s case, which was still within the statute of limitations, increased.
In 2017, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele — who vowed to prosecute Cosby while campaigning for office — filed his case. For several weeks the trial was a media spectacle, but after spending more than 50 hours reviewing testimony, the sequestered jury of five women and seven men failed to reach a unanimous decision and the judge declared a mistrial.
Victim-blaming was one of the reasons the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, with one of the holdouts telling the Philadelphia Inquirer he believed Constand’s actions contributed to what happened that night.
“Let’s face it: She went up to his house with a bare midriff and incense and bath salts,” he said. “What the heck?”
But that was summer of 2017. A few months later, the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct stories would break, sparking a firestorm of similar allegations against powerful Hollywood figures dating back decades. Experts told BuzzFeed News that the #MeToo reckoning that transpired would undoubtedly work against Cosby at his retrial.