Bill Cosby on Thursday was convicted of drugging and molesting a woman in 2004 by a court in Pennsylvania. The 80-year-old was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each of which carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison — or in other words, he could spend the rest of his life in jail. Cosby has been granted bail with a surety of $1 million until his quantum of sentence is decided, which is within the next three months.
The victim, now 45, is a Temple University women’s basketball administrator. She had alleged Cosby sedated her with three blue pills before molesting her at his residence in suburban Philadelphia in January 2004. In her testimony, she said Cosby had told her that the drugs were “your friends”.
Through the trial, Cosby denied charges and said the incident was consensual. He claimed he had given the victim Benadryl, a medicine for cold and allergy, to relax. Cosby’s defence team had called the victim a “con artist” and “pathological liar”, and accused her of framing Cosby to get rich.
In the #MeToo era, this marks the first high-profile conviction.
If 50 women have accused Cosby of assault, why is this case different?
There are around 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault. However, this was the only case that led to criminal charges against him. The others are civil suits. This is because the statute of limitations — the date by which a legal proceedings should be initiated — has lapsed for most complaints against the comedian.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault varies across states in the US. In Pennsylvania, where the case was being heard, it is 12 years.
The victim had reported the assault in 2005, a year after the incident occurred. The civil suit was initially settled in 2006; Cosby gave the victim nearly $3.4 million. However, prosecutors reopened the case in August 2015. Cosby was arrested on December 30, 2015 and criminal charges were filed against him just before the statute of limitations was to expire — it would have expired two weeks later in 2016.
This is the reason why Cosby’s trial is being celebrated, not just by the complainant of the case, but several other people who have accused Cosby of sexual assault.