NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CN) – In an emotional start to the sentencing hearing Monday, a Pennsylvania judge heard pleas for justice from the parents and sister of the woman whom Bill Cosby was convicted five months ago of sexually assaulting.
The courtroom was silent this morning as Cosby entered, dressed in a black suit and holding with one hand a cane that never touched the ground and with the other the arm of his publicist, Andrew Wyatt.
As the 81-year-old took his place at the defense table, the seats behind him dedicated for family and supporters sat empty. Despite her absence from court, however, wife Camille Cosby reportedly is still in the entertainer's corner. Just this past Friday, Camille released a statement about having hired former prosecutor Brian Berry to investigate the judge who presided over her husband’s prosecution. Camille previously filed a complaint about Judge Steven O'Neill with the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.
While waiting for O'Neill to make his entrance this morning, Cosby appeared in good spirits, laughing and smiling with his legal team.
On the other side of the courtroom, 20 women who identify as survivors of Cosby's decades of sexual abuse filled the back row. Ranging in age from their 40s to 80s, the women had not shared their stories at Cosby’s trial in the spring, but they sat in solidarity this morning, raising their hands in salute as Andrea Constand entered the courtroom from a side door.
Cosby was charged in late 2015 with sexually assaulting Constand just before the 12-year statute of limitations on her claims was set to expire.
Thirty-five years Cosby’s junior, and a lesbian, Constand met Cosby through her job at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee.
She would go to police in 2005 to accuse Cosby of having drugged and assaulted her at his home in suburban Cheltenham a year earlier. After the district attorney in Montgomery County at the time opted not to file charges, however, Constand would stay silent about her allegations for over a decade as part of a civil settlement.
Cosby’s deposition testimony from that civil case meanwhile set the stage for his undoing. Unsealed in 2015 by a federal judge, the transcript includes Cosby admitting that he regularly gave quaaludes to women before having sex with them.
Earlier this year, a jury in Norristown convicted Cosby on three counts of indecent sexual assault. He faces up to 20 years in prison with the court electing to combine two of those of counts for the purposes of sentencing.
State law also requires Cosby to register as a sex offender, but the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board recommended in July that Cosby be classified as a sexually violent predator.
Scrutiny over this recommendation ate up the full morning of Cosby’s sentencing hearing on Monday. Before breaking for lunch, Judge O’Neill advised the defense to contact a doctor they want to use a witness, in hopes of "moving this along.”
O'Neill confirmed after lunch that he would lay out Cosby’s sentence on Tuesday.
Throughout today’s proceedings, defense attorneys urged the court to consider Cosby’s age, health and lack of criminal history as mitigating factors.
"He has no prior arrests or convictions,” attorney Joseph Green said. "An 81-year-old blind man is not dangerous, except perhaps, to himself.”
Green said that in the arena of public opinion, Cosby had already suffered a proverbial “stoning.”