When Bill Cosby was found guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent sexual assault yesterday, a flood of questions followed, particularly, what happens next for the comedian? In many ways this case and the subsequent verdict is breaking new territory. Cosby is the first famous man accused of sexual misconduct to be tried and found guilty of his crimes in criminal court during the era of #MeToo. He’s also going to turn 81 next month and he has been diagnosed as legally blind — two factors that likely influenced the judge’s decision to place Cosby under house arrest yesterday rather than sending him directly to a jail cell. We know you have questions about this very complicated case, so we’ve tried to answer them all.
What was Cosby found guilty of exactly?
Cosby was found guilty of three different felony indecent assault charges, each carrying sentences up to ten years in jail. He’s now considered a sex offender.
The first count found Cosby guilty of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 without her consent. The second found that she was unconscious or semiconscious at the time of the assault. And the third found that Cosby gave Constand an intoxicant that severely impaired her ability to give consent.
What makes his crimes “indecent”?
Pennsylvania has a separate charge from sexual assault known as indecent assault. It’s similar to sexual assault, which is defined as engaging in sexual activity with another person without his/her consent, but it’s different in that it considers whether this is done under threat of force or when a person is incapacitated and/or intoxicated.
Okay, so what happens next?
The District Attorney’s Office initially asked that Cosby’s $1 million bail be revoked yesterday so that he would have been incarcerated directly following court proceedings. The judge disagreed and opted to honor the comedian’s bail. This means the 80-year-old can stay under house arrest with GPS monitoring at his estate in suburban Philadelphia until he faces sentencing, within 60 to 90 days. The sentencing gives Cosby’s defense team and prosecutors the opportunity to present any evidence that may influence the next penalty phase.
So Cosby just gets to sit in his big beautiful home after being found guilty of drugging and raping a woman?
Yes. But Cosby cannot leave his home and/or jurisdiction as he awaits sentencing or he risks having his bail revoked and therefore being sent immediately to jail. The prosecutors were initially concerned that Cosby, because of his means, might try to flee. He was asked to surrender his passport and agree to the terms of his bail, which includes wearing a monitoring device to track his movements.
Next, the court will assess Cosby to determine whether he’s a risk to society. They will also consider factors like his age and health to help determine his sentencing later this summer. Being almost 81 and legally blind could certainly impact the sentence.
Is Cosby living at the same house where he drugged and raped Constand?
Is Cosby a felon now?
Yes. He must also register as a sex offender for life.
Can Cosby’s lawyers appeal the verdict?
Absolutely. In fact, right after the verdict was announced, Cosby’s lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, said he would appeal.
What happens in an appeal?
For Cosby’s legal team to appeal the verdict, they must have a legal basis for doing so. In other words, his attorneys can’t simply appeal the verdict because they don’t like it. The defense will need to pinpoint an incident or statement from the retrial to suggest it may have led to an unfair verdict. Cosby’s legal team can appeal in a few different ways in the state. They can submit a motion asking the judge to overturn the jury’s verdict or they can move for a new trial. They could also ask a higher court to reconsider the conviction. In Pennsylvania, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.
Do Cosby’s lawyers have anything to actually appeal?
That’s debatable. Cosby’s defense attorneys could potentially appeal on the grounds that the five women who testified that the comedian drugged and raped them prejudiced the jury. They may also point to any of the judge’s rulings during the retrial as reason for appeal.
Why does Cosby face ten years in jail for each count? Did they make up that number?
Indecent assault is considered a felony in Pennsylvania, making it punishable by up to ten years in jail. These sentences vary from state to state.
What’s the minimum and maximum Cosby could get?
Sentencing depends on a few factors beyond simply being found guilty. After the court has assessed Cosby’s health and whether he is ultimately a threat to society, the judge will hear evidence from both prosecutors and the defense. This gives both sides the opportunity to make their cases for everything from incarceration to house arrest. Ultimately, since felony sexual-assault charges have a mandatory state prison term, Cosby could end up spending a few years to as much as 30 years behind bars. At his age, that would be a life sentence.
Where do his other lawsuits stand?
Cosby faces several other lawsuits that are expected to move forward this summer on the West Coast.
In the first civil case, Judy Huth has accused Cosby of raping her when she was 15, in 1974, making her a minor at the time of the alleged incident. Although California’s statute of limitations has long since passed for any criminal charges to be considered, Huth is pursuing this in a civil court. She could ultimately seek damages from Cosby, who has already given a sworn deposition in this case. The case is expected to proceed at the end of July in Los Angeles.
Janice Dickinson, one of the five women who testified against Cosby during the retrial, is pursuing a defamation lawsuit against Cosby, also in Los Angeles. In March, the California Supreme Court refused Cosby’s latest appeal and ordered that the case move forward. Dickinson has publicly accused Cosby of drugging and raping her in 1982. She’s suing him for defamation after Cosby and his representatives accused her of lying about the incident.
Has Cosby paid out any money to accusers?
It was established during the retrial that Cosby paid Andrea Constand $3.38 million in a settlement in 2006. If there are other settlements, they have not been made public.
Could more accusers sue Cosby now that he’s been found guilty?
Yes. Since Cosby’s been convicted as a felon in criminal court he may end up facing even more civil suits seeking damages from accusers. To date, more than 60 women have publicly accused Cosby of drugging and/or raping them.
Can Cosby stand trial for another case while he’s in jail?
Yes. He could be subpoenaed to attend other trials. But he would remain incarcerated, meaning he would be transported by authorities and unable to move about freely during these trials.
Where will he serve his sentence?
If Cosby is sentenced to prison, his age and health will likely mean he’ll serve time in a lower-security prison. He may even be sent to a facility with an assisted-living home that either has medical facilities or is located near a hospital.
Does Andrea Constand get any damages?
Since this was a criminal trial, Constand does not receive damages. It should be noted that the case against Cosby was brought by the Commonwealth, and not Constand; she was not the plaintiff in this case. As we mentioned, Cosby already paid Constand $3.38 million in a settlement in 2006. She could pursue damages from Cosby for any number of reasons, like mental anguish and stress caused by the two trials. Constand has not commented either way.
Does he have to pay for the trial?
The Montgomery County Court where both trials took place will likely request that Cosby reimburse the county for expenses related to the trials, which total well into the millions.
What was the biggest change in deliberations from the first trial to this one?
The jury in the first trial deliberated for six days, about 52 hours overall, without being able to reach a verdict. The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the retrial, the jury deliberated for less than two days for a little over ten hours before reaching a verdict of guilty on all three charges.
Why was he convicted this time but not last time?
This is a question we will all be debating for years to come, but two of the big differences between the first and second trial have to do with the climate in which each case was tried and the number of witnesses who were called. In the first trial, Constand was the lone witness accusing Cosby of drugging and raping her. In the retrial, five other women in addition to Constand told their stories about Cosby drugging and raping them during the past 30 years. Also noteworthy to this case is that even though the first trial occurred less than one year ago, it was a very different cultural climate. It happened before men like Harvey Weinstein were publicly accused of sexual assault, and it was before the #MeToo movement really gained momentum. For his part, Cosby employed different legal teams for each case — and each team used a different strategy in court.
Where is Cosby now?
At his home in suburban Philadelphia.