Bill Cosby found guilty of sexual assault in retrial

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Actor and comedian Bill CosbyImage copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Bill Cosby, 80, faces a lengthy prison term

US comedian Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault, each of which carries a potential 10 years in prison.

The actor, 80, has been on trial for drugging and assaulting ex-basketball player Andrea Constand in 2004.

Cosby, the first major black actor on primetime TV, will remain out of jail until he is sentenced, the judge ruled.

He unleashed an expletive-filled rant after the verdict, as prosecutors argued he should be denied bail.

It was the second time the actor had stood trial for the allegations, after an earlier jury failed to reach a verdict in June 2017.

At the start of the retrial in Pennsylvania it was revealed that Cosby had paid Ms Constand almost $3.4m (£2.4m) in a civil settlement in 2006.

Cosby is best known for starring in the 1980s TV series The Cosby Show.

Around 60 women over five decades have publicly accused the Emmy award-winning actor of being a sexual predator. But statute of limitation laws mean that only one charge has been brought to trial.

Some of his accusers were present in court, and cried as the guilty verdict was returned.

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Media captionLawyer on Cosby verdict: ‘Finally, women are believed in court’

Cosby’s lawyer Tom Mesereau insisted “the fight is not over”, adding that he believes Cosby is innocent and that he plans to file an appeal.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who brought the charges against Cosby, held a press conference after the verdict.

“Money and power or who you are will not stop us from a criminal investigation and prosecuting a case,” Mr Steele said, as Ms Constand stood beside him.

When the attack took place, Ms Constand was working as director of operations for the women’s basketball team at Temple University, Philadelphia.

She told the court she had gone to the home of her then friend Cosby, to discuss her resignation.

She said he had given her three blue pills to “help take the edge off,” which she believed to be a natural remedy.

Minutes later, she was suffering double vision and quickly lost consciousness.

She awoke to find Cosby groping her breasts and penetrating her, she said, adding that the drugs made her physically unable to fight back.

Ms Constant reported the attack, but the district attorney refused to press charges. The case was reopened in 2015.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Andrea Constand was once a friend of Cosby’s

Analysis: A ruling that’s a sign of our times

Nada Tawfik, BBC News, in Norristown, Pennsylvania

This verdict is being celebrated as a major win for the #MeToo movement. It shows that the shift in our society and culture from doubting to believing victims is also affecting the justice system. Bill Cosby’s lawyers anticipated this and took direct aim at the movement during the trial, telling the jury “mob rule is not due process.” But ultimately, the jury sided with Andrea Constand and set aside the 80-year-old comedian’s wholesome image as American’s favourite dad.

At one time, there was no star bigger than Bill Cosby. He was the most watched man on television, a role model for minorities trying to break into Hollywood. And despite years of allegations, he seemed untouchable. That has now all changed, and there is no doubt that this verdict will have far-reaching consequences.

Judge Steven O’Neill allowed five of Cosby’s other accusers to serve as “prior bad acts” witnesses during the trial, as the prosecution sought to establish a pattern of misconduct.

Former US model Janice Dickinson was among those who testified, alleging that Cosby drugged and raped her at a hotel in 1982, when she was 27 years old.

“I wanted to hit him, wanted to punch him in the face,” Ms Dickinson, 63, told the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania. “I felt anger, was humiliated, disgusted, ashamed.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former model Janice Dickinson has accused Cosby of raping her in 1982

The former reality television star testified Mr Cosby offered her a blue pill that he said would help with discomfort from menstrual cramps.

“He smelled like cigars and espresso and his body odour,” she said. “I couldn’t move, I felt like I was rendered motionless.

“Here was America’s dad on top of me, happily married man with five children and how very, very wrong it was,” she said.

The case against Cosby was one of the first celebrity assault trials conducted in the light of the #MeToo movement, which has raised awareness of alleged sexual misconduct by a number of powerful media figures.

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