Bill Cosby’s sentence is shorter than his victim’s

Shown out.
Shown out.
Image: David Maialetti/Pool via REUTERS
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Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in a Pennsylvania state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004. After three years, the 81-year-old could be eligible for a supervised release—though there’s no guarantee he’ll be granted it.

The sentencing comes nearly 15 years after the incident Constand and her family say derailed her life. “I do not believe in my heart that Bill Cosby has ever cared or even considered the pain and suffering this mess has caused us, or the family as a unit,” her mother, Gianna, told the court.

Today (Sept. 25), after six months of house arrest in his mansion in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, the actor and comedian was officially ruled a sexually violent predator—the highest-risk classification for sexual offenders in the state of Pennsylvania. Even after his release, he must remain on the sex offenders’ registry for the rest of his life, undergo regular counseling, register with state police, and notify any community he lives in of his sex offender status.

“You claimed her silence was consent. That is not the law,” Judge Steven T. O’Neill said, citing one of Cosby’s defense arguments. “This is a court of law and I intend to sentence you under the law.” He noted he had not sought out rehabilitation, showed no contrition, and would not receive special consideration. “No one is above the law and no one should be treated differently or disproportionately based on where they live or who they are,” he said. The sentence reflects that: A New York Times analysis of similar crimes sentenced in Pennsylvania courts showed that most offenders received sentences of between as two to five years.

Cosby’s legal team had pushed for a short sentence under house arrest, citing concerns about his age and his health. But, speaking to the court, O’Neill said that Cosby was not too old to go to prison. “Some might say you were old back then when you assaulted Andrea Constand,” he added, referring to the former Temple University employee and basketball player who had sought career advice from Cosby.

The former US TV star showed no visible reaction to the sentence. Far from what his defense had hoped for, it’s still a fraction of the length of time Cosby has allegedly abused women. Stories of the comedian’s sexual abuse date back at least 50 years, to the mid-1960s. In the past few years, amid the rise of the #MeToo movement, 60 women have come forward to relate the experience of what they say was his misconduct, often including allegations of him drugging and assaulting them.

Cosby’s legal team will almost certainly file an appeal challenging O’Neill’s trial and pretrial rulings. The judge, who had warned he would not grant the defendant “special treatment” that would allow Cosby to enjoy the “comforts of his home,” ruled he would not grant bail pending appeal, before clearing the courtroom ahead of Cosby being handcuffed.

Whatever happens next, tonight will be the first of many Cosby may spend in a cell.